UniqueThis 's Entries

106 blogs
  • 12 Jul 2011
    You may recall that a few months ago I did a survey to see what kinds of products people would be interested in seeing me create. Among other insights this provided, it helped me see what the most requested topics are. Where do people need the most help? One of the top requests in that survey was for a product on the topic of Life Purpose. In reading through the many hundreds of comments, it became clear that a lot of people still feel they’re drifting, and they need more help bringing a sense of purpose to their lives, so they can feel centered and at peace with themselves — and so they can feel they’re on a path to making a meaningful contribution instead of being stuck in unfulfilling situations. Another thing that stood out was that people want more than how-to information. They need help motivating themselves to go through the process. So even though I’ve written a good deal about life purpose in the past, and many people have found it extremely helpful, it isn’t enough to get everyone to the place they’d like to be — the place of having a deep-rooted connection to one’s life purpose. I started working on a product along those lines because it seemed like a good place to start. Many other aspects of self development stem from clarifying your life purpose. I completed the product outline, which I expected would become a 6-10 hour audio program. But when I reviewed the outline, something didn’t feel quite right about it to me. It didn’t feel like this was really “my product.” I felt like I was using a semi-forced process that wasn’t my normal process for creating inspired content. I acknowledged to myself that I was out of flow, so I put the product on hold for a while, worked on other projects, and took a weeklong road trip through California, intending to come back to the project a little later with a fresh perspective. I pondered whether I should take the product in a different direction. I didn’t want to scrap it because I know there’s a need for it, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s important to trust my intuition when it comes to such matters. Synchronicities During this time I received an email from Dr. Brad Swift about a new product he was releasing on the subject of… you guessed it… life purpose. I was already familiar with Brad’s work because I reviewed his book Life on Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired Life in 2007, and we’ve kept in touch over the years. Life on Purpose is simply the best book on life purpose I’ve ever read, and it deserves the rare honor of maintaining a solid 5-star average rating on Amazon.com. Brad’s new program is called the Life on Purpose Virtual Video Coach. It’s an online video-based course where Brad personally guides you through his 6-step Life on Purpose process one lesson at a time. All the videos can be streamed online, and the course includes a PDF workbook and some bonus material. I went through the entire program in May, and I loved it. I had to chuckle at the synchronicity because this was essentially the product I was trying to create. My ideas and processes were different of course, but the end benefits would be the same — to help you bring a clear sense of purpose to your life and to fully ground it in your daily actions, so that you’re truly living on purpose. I also thought to myself, Well… that was easier than I thought. I intended for the creation of a certain product, and here it is. I didn’t even have to record it. So first, I received the lesson I seem to keep needing to learn — to create from a place of inspiration and not to try to force creativity. But beyond that, I also got a lot of value from Brad’s course. If you visit his website, you’ll see my testimonial there. That was actually part of an email I sent to him to tell him what I thought of the course, and I was happy to have him include it on his product page when he asked if that would be okay. Life on Purpose Virtual Video Coach I don’t think of this as an info product because it’s not primarily a course to put new knowledge in your head, although that is a part of it. The program guides you through a process that’s all about you, so it has more to do with gaining self knowledge and understanding. One step at a time, you’ll be guided to reveal your inherited purpose (your fear-based false purpose that masquerades as your true purpose), then to discover your true purpose, and finally to ground your true purpose into your life so you can enjoy more happiness and fulfillment. This course goes well beyond the point of forming a clear statement of purpose. It provides many tools and techniques to help you begin living congruently with your purpose and to shift away from stuckness as well as your inherited purpose. I read Brad’s book and loved it; however, I gained much more value from his Virtual Video Coach. I was a bit surprised because I figured it would simply be a video version of his book. It does cover a lot of the same ground as the book, but I experienced the material in a totally different way. Brad has a very centered and peaceful way of communicating, and watching him on video is (in my opinion) a much better expression of who he is than words on a page. I’m not going to go into detail about all the features and benefits of the course because you can find all of that information on his website. I think it would be more authentic to simply share how the course affected me. Doing vs. Being For many years I’ve had a pretty clear sense of my life purpose, and I like to think I’ve been doing a good job living it. I feel fulfilled most of the time, and I’m very pleased with my current direction. My normal experience is to feel that I’m in the flow of inspiration, and I seldom feel stuck. My life has been working very well, and it seems to be getting better each year. Here’s the purpose statement I currently have on my About page: to care deeply, connect playfully, love intensely, and share generously; to joyfully explore, learn, grow, and prosper; and to creatively, brilliantly, and honorably serve the highest good of all. It may not mean anything to you, but I still get a surge of emotion each time I read it. I think it does a job of succinctly summing up how I wish to live and what inspires me most. This purpose statement has worked well for me over the years, but Brad’s course gave me another way of thinking about purpose. It didn’t replace my current purpose statement, which I still love, but it gave me another perspective I hadn’t considered. Instead of thinking about purpose in terms of doing, Brad encourages you to think about it in terms of being. I think one of the reasons my purpose statement has worked so well for me is that it incorporates beingness, and it isn’t heavy on the doingness in a way that might make me feel pressured or stressed. If your purpose is only about doing, then when you aren’t taking action, you aren’t on purpose; that creates a pressure to be doing, doing, doing… even when you’re feeling burned out. I agree with Brad that it’s better to define your purpose in such a way that you can feel happy and fulfilled at all times, not just when you’re taking a lot of action. I figure I must be doing something right because I often feel very grateful even when I’m just running errands or hanging out with friends. Fortunately my current purpose statement translates fairly easy to beingness. “To care deeply” means to be a caring person. “To connect playfully” means to be a playful person. “To joyfully explore” means to be an explorer. I liked considering my purpose statement through the lens of being. It helped me recognize that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I can always be living on purpose. I don’t always have to be doing something specific. But there was a greater benefit beyond this. Brad’s insights encouraged me to reinterpret my goals, projects, and tasks from the perspective of beingness. I reviewed those items and asked myself, Who am I really desiring to be here? My original purpose statement addresses the questions of what and how. I also have an intuitive understanding of the why. But it doesn’t really address the question of where. Where do I ultimately see myself living on purpose? This is a fairly general question, but it gave me a lot of clarity. I thought about why I’m in Las Vegas and what I can do here specifically. I thought about where in the broad field of personal development I most enjoy working. I thought about what kinds of situations and positions I enjoy most. There are so many facets to this exploration that I’m still exploring it — which is actually a part of my purpose: to joyfully explore. But I’ve already gained more clarity about some “locations”, or states of being, that I enjoy most. One place I enjoy is being in the increasingly overlapping space between technology and personal development. I feel perfectly comfortable in both fields. I liked being one of the first people to leverage blogging technology to spread personal development ideas. Now it’s commonplace, and there are lots of people leveraging tech to promote PD. I think that’s wonderful. I feel right at home in this tech-PD space. I like having an online business, and I regard the Internet as my digital home. I also love exploring personal growth and sharing it with others. Brad’s course gave me the clarity to see that positionally speaking, I love having one foot in the tech world and the other foot in the PD world, and I look for ways to further connect the dots between them. Another location I love is the space of connecting deeply with people face to face. I like that I can discuss topics like life purpose or subjective reality with people shortly after I meet them. I like “breaking the ice” by recognizing that there never was any ice to begin with. I enjoy maintaining an open and approachable posture; I can’t always do that online due to the overwhelming numbers, but I’m at least able to do it in person most of the time. To me, being in the space of an intimate connection with someone is a very joyful place to be. When I remind myself to simply be in these places, my life flows very easily, and I feel happy and fulfilled. Interestingly, this focus on being has led to a lot more action. For example, by reminding myself that I love being in the overlapping space between tech and PD, I’ve been devouring tech company biographies lately, coming up with new ideas for how tech and PD could continue to merge. I’ve also made some tweaks to my website, so it’s serving up pages more efficiently than it was a week ago. By reminding myself that I enjoy face time with people, I arranged a meetup in a local park last Sunday. About 14 people showed up. I brought a bunch of my discs that I use for disc golf, and several of us had fun throwing them around; that was my way of expressing “to connect playfully”. I’m also working on booking more workshops for the Fall, which will bring even more people together in the same physical location, where all of us can connect playfully and learn and grow together. The irony is that I don’t feel like I’m really doing much, but I’m getting a lot more done than usual. I’m not trying to force anything. I just focus on where I want to be, and action flows effortlessly from there. I’m enjoying this really nice flow right now. A few days ago, I was talking to Erin on the phone and she said something like, “I can tell you’re in a really good place right now. I’m not sensing that you need to change anything. You seem really happy right where you are.” She’s right. Being in the right place is very powerful. When you’re in the right place — for you — the doing part follows naturally from it. You don’t have to push yourself to take action or fight against procrastination. When you’re in the right place of beingness, life automatically supports you. More Distinctions What I shared above is only one of many powerful distinctions I got from Brad’s course. Although he presents a 6-step linear process that’s easy to follow, I personally found that the course had a very nonlinear, expanding-in-all-directions effect on me. If you watch the videos and do the workbook exercises in a straightforward manner, you’ll arrive at the point of having your own statement of purpose and a deep grasp of what it means. You’ll also begin living in alignment with that purpose, watching your life take on a positive new direction. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly linear nature of the course, however. It’s a lot more than a step by step process. I found that several points really stuck with me, such as Brad’s coffee mug analogy, and got me thinking in new directions about other parts of my life such as my goals, projects, and actions. I started thinking less about to-dos and more about “Where do I want to be right now?” Once I figured that out, I discovered to my delight that the right actions flowed rather easily from there. Let me conclude simply by saying that I highly recommend this course, and I think you’ll gain a lot by going through it — even if you think you’re already pretty clear about your purpose. If you want to bring more purpose, meaning, and fulfillment to your life, you can’t go wrong here. Brad is definitely one of the good guys in this field, and I genuinely expect you’ll gain a lot from his program. It even includes a better than money-back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose by trying it. I completed the course in less than a week, although you can certainly go through the lessons more slowly if you want time to integrate them one by one. An hour or two a week would be a very reasonable pacing. To learn more, visit the Life on Purpose Virtual Video Coach page. Well, that was an easy product to get out the door. What’s next?
    835 Posted by UniqueThis
  • You may recall that a few months ago I did a survey to see what kinds of products people would be interested in seeing me create. Among other insights this provided, it helped me see what the most requested topics are. Where do people need the most help? One of the top requests in that survey was for a product on the topic of Life Purpose. In reading through the many hundreds of comments, it became clear that a lot of people still feel they’re drifting, and they need more help bringing a sense of purpose to their lives, so they can feel centered and at peace with themselves — and so they can feel they’re on a path to making a meaningful contribution instead of being stuck in unfulfilling situations. Another thing that stood out was that people want more than how-to information. They need help motivating themselves to go through the process. So even though I’ve written a good deal about life purpose in the past, and many people have found it extremely helpful, it isn’t enough to get everyone to the place they’d like to be — the place of having a deep-rooted connection to one’s life purpose. I started working on a product along those lines because it seemed like a good place to start. Many other aspects of self development stem from clarifying your life purpose. I completed the product outline, which I expected would become a 6-10 hour audio program. But when I reviewed the outline, something didn’t feel quite right about it to me. It didn’t feel like this was really “my product.” I felt like I was using a semi-forced process that wasn’t my normal process for creating inspired content. I acknowledged to myself that I was out of flow, so I put the product on hold for a while, worked on other projects, and took a weeklong road trip through California, intending to come back to the project a little later with a fresh perspective. I pondered whether I should take the product in a different direction. I didn’t want to scrap it because I know there’s a need for it, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s important to trust my intuition when it comes to such matters. Synchronicities During this time I received an email from Dr. Brad Swift about a new product he was releasing on the subject of… you guessed it… life purpose. I was already familiar with Brad’s work because I reviewed his book Life on Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired Life in 2007, and we’ve kept in touch over the years. Life on Purpose is simply the best book on life purpose I’ve ever read, and it deserves the rare honor of maintaining a solid 5-star average rating on Amazon.com. Brad’s new program is called the Life on Purpose Virtual Video Coach. It’s an online video-based course where Brad personally guides you through his 6-step Life on Purpose process one lesson at a time. All the videos can be streamed online, and the course includes a PDF workbook and some bonus material. I went through the entire program in May, and I loved it. I had to chuckle at the synchronicity because this was essentially the product I was trying to create. My ideas and processes were different of course, but the end benefits would be the same — to help you bring a clear sense of purpose to your life and to fully ground it in your daily actions, so that you’re truly living on purpose. I also thought to myself, Well… that was easier than I thought. I intended for the creation of a certain product, and here it is. I didn’t even have to record it. So first, I received the lesson I seem to keep needing to learn — to create from a place of inspiration and not to try to force creativity. But beyond that, I also got a lot of value from Brad’s course. If you visit his website, you’ll see my testimonial there. That was actually part of an email I sent to him to tell him what I thought of the course, and I was happy to have him include it on his product page when he asked if that would be okay. Life on Purpose Virtual Video Coach I don’t think of this as an info product because it’s not primarily a course to put new knowledge in your head, although that is a part of it. The program guides you through a process that’s all about you, so it has more to do with gaining self knowledge and understanding. One step at a time, you’ll be guided to reveal your inherited purpose (your fear-based false purpose that masquerades as your true purpose), then to discover your true purpose, and finally to ground your true purpose into your life so you can enjoy more happiness and fulfillment. This course goes well beyond the point of forming a clear statement of purpose. It provides many tools and techniques to help you begin living congruently with your purpose and to shift away from stuckness as well as your inherited purpose. I read Brad’s book and loved it; however, I gained much more value from his Virtual Video Coach. I was a bit surprised because I figured it would simply be a video version of his book. It does cover a lot of the same ground as the book, but I experienced the material in a totally different way. Brad has a very centered and peaceful way of communicating, and watching him on video is (in my opinion) a much better expression of who he is than words on a page. I’m not going to go into detail about all the features and benefits of the course because you can find all of that information on his website. I think it would be more authentic to simply share how the course affected me. Doing vs. Being For many years I’ve had a pretty clear sense of my life purpose, and I like to think I’ve been doing a good job living it. I feel fulfilled most of the time, and I’m very pleased with my current direction. My normal experience is to feel that I’m in the flow of inspiration, and I seldom feel stuck. My life has been working very well, and it seems to be getting better each year. Here’s the purpose statement I currently have on my About page: to care deeply, connect playfully, love intensely, and share generously; to joyfully explore, learn, grow, and prosper; and to creatively, brilliantly, and honorably serve the highest good of all. It may not mean anything to you, but I still get a surge of emotion each time I read it. I think it does a job of succinctly summing up how I wish to live and what inspires me most. This purpose statement has worked well for me over the years, but Brad’s course gave me another way of thinking about purpose. It didn’t replace my current purpose statement, which I still love, but it gave me another perspective I hadn’t considered. Instead of thinking about purpose in terms of doing, Brad encourages you to think about it in terms of being. I think one of the reasons my purpose statement has worked so well for me is that it incorporates beingness, and it isn’t heavy on the doingness in a way that might make me feel pressured or stressed. If your purpose is only about doing, then when you aren’t taking action, you aren’t on purpose; that creates a pressure to be doing, doing, doing… even when you’re feeling burned out. I agree with Brad that it’s better to define your purpose in such a way that you can feel happy and fulfilled at all times, not just when you’re taking a lot of action. I figure I must be doing something right because I often feel very grateful even when I’m just running errands or hanging out with friends. Fortunately my current purpose statement translates fairly easy to beingness. “To care deeply” means to be a caring person. “To connect playfully” means to be a playful person. “To joyfully explore” means to be an explorer. I liked considering my purpose statement through the lens of being. It helped me recognize that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I can always be living on purpose. I don’t always have to be doing something specific. But there was a greater benefit beyond this. Brad’s insights encouraged me to reinterpret my goals, projects, and tasks from the perspective of beingness. I reviewed those items and asked myself, Who am I really desiring to be here? My original purpose statement addresses the questions of what and how. I also have an intuitive understanding of the why. But it doesn’t really address the question of where. Where do I ultimately see myself living on purpose? This is a fairly general question, but it gave me a lot of clarity. I thought about why I’m in Las Vegas and what I can do here specifically. I thought about where in the broad field of personal development I most enjoy working. I thought about what kinds of situations and positions I enjoy most. There are so many facets to this exploration that I’m still exploring it — which is actually a part of my purpose: to joyfully explore. But I’ve already gained more clarity about some “locations”, or states of being, that I enjoy most. One place I enjoy is being in the increasingly overlapping space between technology and personal development. I feel perfectly comfortable in both fields. I liked being one of the first people to leverage blogging technology to spread personal development ideas. Now it’s commonplace, and there are lots of people leveraging tech to promote PD. I think that’s wonderful. I feel right at home in this tech-PD space. I like having an online business, and I regard the Internet as my digital home. I also love exploring personal growth and sharing it with others. Brad’s course gave me the clarity to see that positionally speaking, I love having one foot in the tech world and the other foot in the PD world, and I look for ways to further connect the dots between them. Another location I love is the space of connecting deeply with people face to face. I like that I can discuss topics like life purpose or subjective reality with people shortly after I meet them. I like “breaking the ice” by recognizing that there never was any ice to begin with. I enjoy maintaining an open and approachable posture; I can’t always do that online due to the overwhelming numbers, but I’m at least able to do it in person most of the time. To me, being in the space of an intimate connection with someone is a very joyful place to be. When I remind myself to simply be in these places, my life flows very easily, and I feel happy and fulfilled. Interestingly, this focus on being has led to a lot more action. For example, by reminding myself that I love being in the overlapping space between tech and PD, I’ve been devouring tech company biographies lately, coming up with new ideas for how tech and PD could continue to merge. I’ve also made some tweaks to my website, so it’s serving up pages more efficiently than it was a week ago. By reminding myself that I enjoy face time with people, I arranged a meetup in a local park last Sunday. About 14 people showed up. I brought a bunch of my discs that I use for disc golf, and several of us had fun throwing them around; that was my way of expressing “to connect playfully”. I’m also working on booking more workshops for the Fall, which will bring even more people together in the same physical location, where all of us can connect playfully and learn and grow together. The irony is that I don’t feel like I’m really doing much, but I’m getting a lot more done than usual. I’m not trying to force anything. I just focus on where I want to be, and action flows effortlessly from there. I’m enjoying this really nice flow right now. A few days ago, I was talking to Erin on the phone and she said something like, “I can tell you’re in a really good place right now. I’m not sensing that you need to change anything. You seem really happy right where you are.” She’s right. Being in the right place is very powerful. When you’re in the right place — for you — the doing part follows naturally from it. You don’t have to push yourself to take action or fight against procrastination. When you’re in the right place of beingness, life automatically supports you. More Distinctions What I shared above is only one of many powerful distinctions I got from Brad’s course. Although he presents a 6-step linear process that’s easy to follow, I personally found that the course had a very nonlinear, expanding-in-all-directions effect on me. If you watch the videos and do the workbook exercises in a straightforward manner, you’ll arrive at the point of having your own statement of purpose and a deep grasp of what it means. You’ll also begin living in alignment with that purpose, watching your life take on a positive new direction. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly linear nature of the course, however. It’s a lot more than a step by step process. I found that several points really stuck with me, such as Brad’s coffee mug analogy, and got me thinking in new directions about other parts of my life such as my goals, projects, and actions. I started thinking less about to-dos and more about “Where do I want to be right now?” Once I figured that out, I discovered to my delight that the right actions flowed rather easily from there. Let me conclude simply by saying that I highly recommend this course, and I think you’ll gain a lot by going through it — even if you think you’re already pretty clear about your purpose. If you want to bring more purpose, meaning, and fulfillment to your life, you can’t go wrong here. Brad is definitely one of the good guys in this field, and I genuinely expect you’ll gain a lot from his program. It even includes a better than money-back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose by trying it. I completed the course in less than a week, although you can certainly go through the lessons more slowly if you want time to integrate them one by one. An hour or two a week would be a very reasonable pacing. To learn more, visit the Life on Purpose Virtual Video Coach page. Well, that was an easy product to get out the door. What’s next?
    Jul 12, 2011 835
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I spent most of the day yesterday on planning work, mapping out the path for growing this web site into a profitable and sustainable business. I created five 1-page documents: a business development plan, a marketing plan, a sales plan, a product development plan, and a web site development plan — all with a one-year timespan. I’m not a fan of hugely complicated business plans (those are reserved for impressing people who favor volume over substance). And while setting 5-year goals can be helpful, I think we’re in an age of such rapid change that detailed 5-year plans are a waste of time too (at least in the info products business). I find one year much better for overall business planning, since beyond that horizon, so much will have changed by the time you arrive that the 2-5 year portion of the plan will be obsolete. And 90 days is a great period for driving plans down into more detailed projects and actions. Longer term goals are helpful, but I see them more as a compass (giving direction) rather than a map (specifying the path). In the process of creating these plans, I read and reviewed a number of books. Developing info products and selling them is straightforward for me since I’ve been selling online for 10 years now, but the tricky part of this new business will be the marketing. Consequently, most of my reading and research was focused on ideas for the marketing plan. In the past two days I read three books by Seth Godin: Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, and Free Prize Inside. I like Godin’s direct writing style, although I feel his books are really articles padded out to the length of a book, including The Big Red Fez. He must write for an audience of very closed-minded or traditional people, since 80-90% of his words appear to be aimed at persuading the reader to believe him. But if you’re open-minded about marketing and are focused on learning new ideas you can actually apply, then I’d say you only need to read the first couple chapters of any Seth Godin book to get the value you seek — at least for me, the reasoning behind the recommendations seems obvious. And in any case, the only way to know if Godin’s ideas are truly practical is to try them. If I’m going to read a book on marketing, all I care about are the ideas I can actually go out and apply for myself. Theories and opinions are worthless (even if a marketing idea works, the theories behind it are often wrong). I also reviewed some of my Jay Abraham literature, including his book Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got. This is one of my favorite books on marketing/selling. I like Abraham’s audio content better, but this book contains a solid collection of his ideas. I’m looking forward to building a new business from scratch where I can apply all of these concepts from the ground up. The hard part for me is patience, since many of these ideas can’t be applied for a few years (I have to lay the foundation first). One of the key business development decisions I had to make involved a chicken-egg problem. Since I want to do professional speaking as well as build an info products business, which comes first? Focus on speaking first, and then build an info products business later? Or build an info products business, and then leverage that to get into paid speaking? There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. If I focus on paid speaking first, that could potentially be very lucrative, but then I only get paid while speaking — no getting paid while I sleep. In the beginning there would be no BOR sales (BOR = back of room) for books, CDs, etc, since I wouldn’t have any info products yet. No royalties either. Some top speakers earn around $25,000 just in product sales for each appearance, not counting the speaking fee. On the other hand, if I focus on building an info products business first (books, audio content, etc), that revenue stream will likely take longer to get going, but then I can leverage the content to get into paid speaking, probably starting out with a higher fee than I’d be able to get otherwise, especially if I have a book published. Top speakers who have their own info products back end have successfully used both approaches. So there’s no right or wrong answer — the destination is similar whichever path you take. My ultimate decision was to focus first on building an info products business, at least through the end of 2005. After that becomes profitable, I’ll aim to expand into paid speaking in 2006 or 2007. Of course, if a huge opportunity comes along that makes plan B seem better, I’ll certainly be free to jump on it. I’ve also had a few people inquire about having me do some kind of personal coaching. Interesting idea…. I’ve had two personal/professional coaches at different times, each one for six months. The first was in 1993, and the second was in 2001. And I had a personal trainer for 2002-2003. I’m a big fan of the concept of coaching. In fact, this would be a great time for me to hire a professional coach again. But I’m hesitant to get into that type of work myself. I prefer the one-to-many path of speaking and writing, since I feel like I get to help a lot more people for the same investment of time. But more significantly I don’t feel that I’d be a good coach, since the main point of having a coach is to help you achieve your goals. However, the kind of topics I most want to write and speak about go a step beyond that — to considering whether or not you’ve set the right goals in the first place, beginning from the starting point of identifying your purpose. This requires a very holistic approach. I wouldn’t be happy coaching a Pepsi regional sales manager to sell more sugar water. If someone like that came to me for coaching, I’d have to challenge him/her to consider the negative impact of such a career and to get back in touch with his/her conscience and passion, leading from there into a discussion about purpose and summoning the courage to make big changes. I’d enjoy coaching someone through that kind of change, but that isn’t really what most people want from coaching (or are willing to pay for). A personal coach typically costs at least $50/hour, some going more than 10x that amount. If I did this kind of work, I’d probably have to charge at least $100/hour to justify the opportunity cost. But I don’t think I’d be a very good coach, since I’d be more interested in helping people get themselves onto the right path for them (one that’s in tune with their best talents, passion, and conscience) as opposed to helping people achieve the goals they’ve already set for themselves. Are people willing to pay $100/hour for that? I honestly don’t know. And it’s not the kind of work you can really back up with concrete guarantees and such. Imagine hiring a football coach who sends half the players off to engage in other sports. Aside from continuing to build up the free content on this site (I intend to have 10 free articles posted by the end of the year… 8 more to go), I’ll be spending a lot of time this year creating information products on various aspects of personal growth. Initially I’d like to focus on downloadable content like ebooks and audio. Once that gets going, I’ll write a book and either self-publish it or go through a publisher. Either way, I want to get a book into retail stores so it has the potential to reach a larger market (and generate more traffic for this web site). My wife has already done this with her self-published book, so that’s a pretty straightforward process for me to follow. She’s already working on book #2. Again, the only tricky part of this kind of business for me is the marketing, since I’ve never marketed such a business before. Personal development is a very broad field (it can cover anything from weight loss to spirituality), so I need to find a way to cut through the clutter. Search engine placement isn’t a significant part of my strategy, since search volume on relevant terms is so diluted that even if I can capture top spots for a lot of them, the traffic won’t be high enough to matter. In the long run, I know my best marketing will be to create content of the highest possible quality, which is something I’m confident I can do. Already the free content on this site is generating new links (and new traffic sources) every week. This month the site will see about 17,000 visitors. Not bad for month #4 with not a dime spent on marketing, but not quite enough yet. I’d like to see at least 10x that number. I’ll eventually get there if I just follow my current marketing plan, and word of mouth will continue to be a strong factor, but I’m certain there are better ways to leap ahead faster. My marketing cow is still more brown than purple. I’ll be spending more time next week working on the marketing plan to change that. The key limiting factor for me to succeed in building this business is attracting a sufficient quantity of visitors who are willing to invest in high-quality info products that will help them grow. Of course everything will have an unconditional money-back guarantee as I’ve been doing for years with my game download site, so there won’t be any risk for visitors to become customers. I already know how to do the whole e-commerce thing with instant electronic delivery… been doing that for years. I already know how to handle the selling part. Plus I have abundant ideas for new info products and plenty of material for content. Most of all, I’m passionately fired up to do this, especially since I feel it will greatly benefit a lot of people. All of this will require hard work, but it’s all highly doable. In the long run, it all comes down to marketing. Given the millions of copies of personal development books and audio programs sold each year, it’s very clear that my future customers are already out there. My greatest business challenge this year will be cutting through the clutter to reach them. Since the basis of my strategy this year is to build a slice of market share, I’ll be largely focused on gaining first-time customers. Obviously I need some products first, but my main strategy will be to provide far more value than would be reasonably expected. In other words the initial info products will be significantly underpriced compared to the value they provide. It will be hard to justify not buying them. This is the same basic strategy I used in shareware games — the original version of Dweep I released in 1999 had 30 levels and was only $9.95. Game reviewers noted what a great value the game was, comparable to other games that sold for 2-3x the price. Consequently, it brought in a lot of customers and quickly grabbed some market share among fans of creative logic puzzles. Within a few months, I then sold those same customers their first expansion pack of 20 new levels, also for $9.95. And then a second expansion pack followed a few months later. And then a Gold version of the game with even more levels. Now the Gold version of the game is $24.95 and contains 152 levels, so although the price has increased, the value has increased even faster (the cost per game level has dropped by half). But it all started with providing great value at an extremely reasonable price to quickly build up a base of customers. Many of those initial $9.95 customers went on to purchase over $200 worth of games in the years ahead. Of course, many internet businesses have applied a similar strategy — offer incredible initial value at low cost or for free to bring in hordes of customers quickly. But many of these businesses fail because they don’t ultimately keep in touch with their customers and continue to give them new value year after year in a way that’s profitable and sustainable. I know I can successfully manage the latter. I just need to figure out how to get all those prospects here in the first place. It’s going to be a fun year!
    882 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I spent most of the day yesterday on planning work, mapping out the path for growing this web site into a profitable and sustainable business. I created five 1-page documents: a business development plan, a marketing plan, a sales plan, a product development plan, and a web site development plan — all with a one-year timespan. I’m not a fan of hugely complicated business plans (those are reserved for impressing people who favor volume over substance). And while setting 5-year goals can be helpful, I think we’re in an age of such rapid change that detailed 5-year plans are a waste of time too (at least in the info products business). I find one year much better for overall business planning, since beyond that horizon, so much will have changed by the time you arrive that the 2-5 year portion of the plan will be obsolete. And 90 days is a great period for driving plans down into more detailed projects and actions. Longer term goals are helpful, but I see them more as a compass (giving direction) rather than a map (specifying the path). In the process of creating these plans, I read and reviewed a number of books. Developing info products and selling them is straightforward for me since I’ve been selling online for 10 years now, but the tricky part of this new business will be the marketing. Consequently, most of my reading and research was focused on ideas for the marketing plan. In the past two days I read three books by Seth Godin: Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, and Free Prize Inside. I like Godin’s direct writing style, although I feel his books are really articles padded out to the length of a book, including The Big Red Fez. He must write for an audience of very closed-minded or traditional people, since 80-90% of his words appear to be aimed at persuading the reader to believe him. But if you’re open-minded about marketing and are focused on learning new ideas you can actually apply, then I’d say you only need to read the first couple chapters of any Seth Godin book to get the value you seek — at least for me, the reasoning behind the recommendations seems obvious. And in any case, the only way to know if Godin’s ideas are truly practical is to try them. If I’m going to read a book on marketing, all I care about are the ideas I can actually go out and apply for myself. Theories and opinions are worthless (even if a marketing idea works, the theories behind it are often wrong). I also reviewed some of my Jay Abraham literature, including his book Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got. This is one of my favorite books on marketing/selling. I like Abraham’s audio content better, but this book contains a solid collection of his ideas. I’m looking forward to building a new business from scratch where I can apply all of these concepts from the ground up. The hard part for me is patience, since many of these ideas can’t be applied for a few years (I have to lay the foundation first). One of the key business development decisions I had to make involved a chicken-egg problem. Since I want to do professional speaking as well as build an info products business, which comes first? Focus on speaking first, and then build an info products business later? Or build an info products business, and then leverage that to get into paid speaking? There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. If I focus on paid speaking first, that could potentially be very lucrative, but then I only get paid while speaking — no getting paid while I sleep. In the beginning there would be no BOR sales (BOR = back of room) for books, CDs, etc, since I wouldn’t have any info products yet. No royalties either. Some top speakers earn around $25,000 just in product sales for each appearance, not counting the speaking fee. On the other hand, if I focus on building an info products business first (books, audio content, etc), that revenue stream will likely take longer to get going, but then I can leverage the content to get into paid speaking, probably starting out with a higher fee than I’d be able to get otherwise, especially if I have a book published. Top speakers who have their own info products back end have successfully used both approaches. So there’s no right or wrong answer — the destination is similar whichever path you take. My ultimate decision was to focus first on building an info products business, at least through the end of 2005. After that becomes profitable, I’ll aim to expand into paid speaking in 2006 or 2007. Of course, if a huge opportunity comes along that makes plan B seem better, I’ll certainly be free to jump on it. I’ve also had a few people inquire about having me do some kind of personal coaching. Interesting idea…. I’ve had two personal/professional coaches at different times, each one for six months. The first was in 1993, and the second was in 2001. And I had a personal trainer for 2002-2003. I’m a big fan of the concept of coaching. In fact, this would be a great time for me to hire a professional coach again. But I’m hesitant to get into that type of work myself. I prefer the one-to-many path of speaking and writing, since I feel like I get to help a lot more people for the same investment of time. But more significantly I don’t feel that I’d be a good coach, since the main point of having a coach is to help you achieve your goals. However, the kind of topics I most want to write and speak about go a step beyond that — to considering whether or not you’ve set the right goals in the first place, beginning from the starting point of identifying your purpose. This requires a very holistic approach. I wouldn’t be happy coaching a Pepsi regional sales manager to sell more sugar water. If someone like that came to me for coaching, I’d have to challenge him/her to consider the negative impact of such a career and to get back in touch with his/her conscience and passion, leading from there into a discussion about purpose and summoning the courage to make big changes. I’d enjoy coaching someone through that kind of change, but that isn’t really what most people want from coaching (or are willing to pay for). A personal coach typically costs at least $50/hour, some going more than 10x that amount. If I did this kind of work, I’d probably have to charge at least $100/hour to justify the opportunity cost. But I don’t think I’d be a very good coach, since I’d be more interested in helping people get themselves onto the right path for them (one that’s in tune with their best talents, passion, and conscience) as opposed to helping people achieve the goals they’ve already set for themselves. Are people willing to pay $100/hour for that? I honestly don’t know. And it’s not the kind of work you can really back up with concrete guarantees and such. Imagine hiring a football coach who sends half the players off to engage in other sports. Aside from continuing to build up the free content on this site (I intend to have 10 free articles posted by the end of the year… 8 more to go), I’ll be spending a lot of time this year creating information products on various aspects of personal growth. Initially I’d like to focus on downloadable content like ebooks and audio. Once that gets going, I’ll write a book and either self-publish it or go through a publisher. Either way, I want to get a book into retail stores so it has the potential to reach a larger market (and generate more traffic for this web site). My wife has already done this with her self-published book, so that’s a pretty straightforward process for me to follow. She’s already working on book #2. Again, the only tricky part of this kind of business for me is the marketing, since I’ve never marketed such a business before. Personal development is a very broad field (it can cover anything from weight loss to spirituality), so I need to find a way to cut through the clutter. Search engine placement isn’t a significant part of my strategy, since search volume on relevant terms is so diluted that even if I can capture top spots for a lot of them, the traffic won’t be high enough to matter. In the long run, I know my best marketing will be to create content of the highest possible quality, which is something I’m confident I can do. Already the free content on this site is generating new links (and new traffic sources) every week. This month the site will see about 17,000 visitors. Not bad for month #4 with not a dime spent on marketing, but not quite enough yet. I’d like to see at least 10x that number. I’ll eventually get there if I just follow my current marketing plan, and word of mouth will continue to be a strong factor, but I’m certain there are better ways to leap ahead faster. My marketing cow is still more brown than purple. I’ll be spending more time next week working on the marketing plan to change that. The key limiting factor for me to succeed in building this business is attracting a sufficient quantity of visitors who are willing to invest in high-quality info products that will help them grow. Of course everything will have an unconditional money-back guarantee as I’ve been doing for years with my game download site, so there won’t be any risk for visitors to become customers. I already know how to do the whole e-commerce thing with instant electronic delivery… been doing that for years. I already know how to handle the selling part. Plus I have abundant ideas for new info products and plenty of material for content. Most of all, I’m passionately fired up to do this, especially since I feel it will greatly benefit a lot of people. All of this will require hard work, but it’s all highly doable. In the long run, it all comes down to marketing. Given the millions of copies of personal development books and audio programs sold each year, it’s very clear that my future customers are already out there. My greatest business challenge this year will be cutting through the clutter to reach them. Since the basis of my strategy this year is to build a slice of market share, I’ll be largely focused on gaining first-time customers. Obviously I need some products first, but my main strategy will be to provide far more value than would be reasonably expected. In other words the initial info products will be significantly underpriced compared to the value they provide. It will be hard to justify not buying them. This is the same basic strategy I used in shareware games — the original version of Dweep I released in 1999 had 30 levels and was only $9.95. Game reviewers noted what a great value the game was, comparable to other games that sold for 2-3x the price. Consequently, it brought in a lot of customers and quickly grabbed some market share among fans of creative logic puzzles. Within a few months, I then sold those same customers their first expansion pack of 20 new levels, also for $9.95. And then a second expansion pack followed a few months later. And then a Gold version of the game with even more levels. Now the Gold version of the game is $24.95 and contains 152 levels, so although the price has increased, the value has increased even faster (the cost per game level has dropped by half). But it all started with providing great value at an extremely reasonable price to quickly build up a base of customers. Many of those initial $9.95 customers went on to purchase over $200 worth of games in the years ahead. Of course, many internet businesses have applied a similar strategy — offer incredible initial value at low cost or for free to bring in hordes of customers quickly. But many of these businesses fail because they don’t ultimately keep in touch with their customers and continue to give them new value year after year in a way that’s profitable and sustainable. I know I can successfully manage the latter. I just need to figure out how to get all those prospects here in the first place. It’s going to be a fun year!
    Jul 12, 2011 882
  • 12 Jul 2011
    The best place to invest your money is in yourself. The rate of return from investing in your own knowledge and skills will be much higher than anything you’ll see from stocks, real estate, or other investments. In some cases you can even measure the rate of return. Say you buy a book. Even add in the cost of your average hourly rate multiplied by the time it took you to read it. Many books will be lousy. But every once in a while, you’ll get one good idea that gives you a huge rate of return. Like 10x the cost in a matter of months. This is especially true with business and personal productivity books. But often it isn’t a breakthrough idea but rather the continuous exposure to the same ideas presented in different ways that produces a steady return over time. And the results go way beyond monetary. If investing in your own knowledge finally gives you the idea you need to quit smoking, you can measure the lifetime financial savings in the cost of cigarettes, but what is the increased level of health worth to you? What is the idea that allows you to meet and connect with your future spouse worth? What is shedding 50 pounds of fat and knowing you can keep it off the rest of your life worth? What is building a career that totally fulfills you worth? A trick I learned from Brian Tracy is to invest 3% of your income on your own personal development. I don’t know why he specifically uses 3%, but that seems about right to me. So if you earn $5000 per month, you’d invest just $150 per month on your own personal development. You could buy about 10 paperback business or self-help books; those are typically $12-16 each (but that’s a lot to read in a month). Or you could order about 3 six-cassette or six-CD audio programs; those are usually around $50-60 each, often $20-30 if you buy them used. Or that $150 could go toward the cost of a seminar or conference. Most one-day personal development seminars I’m familiar with are around $100, with 3-day or longer ones typically in the $200-600 range (although they can go much higher, well over $10,000). I find it best to mix and match different types of learning. For example, last month I bought an audio program, a few books, and went to a 3-day seminar. You don’t have to spend that exact percentage every month. It’s fine to underspend one month and overspend another. But aim for about 3% for the year on average. If that amount makes you uncomfortable, start with 1% the first month and build up gradually. Or just start with a fixed amount like $20 until you get the hang of it. You can use this budget to invest in improving yourself any way you like. So that includes not just knowledge, but also equipment and services — anything that helps you grow and improve. For example, I used this budget to put together a home gym with a weight station, an exercise bike, and lots of free weights. If you’re feeling stressed, you could use the money to get a professional massage (in my area those are usually $40-100 for an hour). My wife likes spending half a day at the Luxor Spa now and then. If you feel it would be a growth experience for you, go for it. Take sky-diving lessons. Tour a museum. Join a club or association. Buy software to learn to type faster. Take flute lessons. Take tennis lessons. Get a PDA. This is a pretty easy habit to develop too. Just write on your calendar on the 1st of each month: “Invest 3% in myself.” Then when that date comes up, figure out how much money you made the previous month, and then decide how you’ll spend it. If you can, spend it right away — easy when you order online. Remember that this is an investment; the money you spend here will be repaid in the long run based on how you invest it. If you run your own business, you can decide whether you want to invest a percentage of your gross or your net income. I use the gross, which obviously gives me a higher budget. Use whatever figure you feel most comfortable with. Even though I’m shopping-challenged, this is the kind of shopping I enjoy. You can give me a $10,000 shopping spree at the local mall, and I won’t be able to find anything I want. But when it comes to investing in knowledge and skills, suddenly I have no trouble coming up with a wish list. It’s fun to think, “OK, I have $X to spend on my own personal growth. How shall I do it?” Let’s buy 30 shares of better health, 10 shares of financial prosperity, 5 shares of communication skills, and 20 shares of relationship building. Happy spending!
    883 Posted by UniqueThis
  • The best place to invest your money is in yourself. The rate of return from investing in your own knowledge and skills will be much higher than anything you’ll see from stocks, real estate, or other investments. In some cases you can even measure the rate of return. Say you buy a book. Even add in the cost of your average hourly rate multiplied by the time it took you to read it. Many books will be lousy. But every once in a while, you’ll get one good idea that gives you a huge rate of return. Like 10x the cost in a matter of months. This is especially true with business and personal productivity books. But often it isn’t a breakthrough idea but rather the continuous exposure to the same ideas presented in different ways that produces a steady return over time. And the results go way beyond monetary. If investing in your own knowledge finally gives you the idea you need to quit smoking, you can measure the lifetime financial savings in the cost of cigarettes, but what is the increased level of health worth to you? What is the idea that allows you to meet and connect with your future spouse worth? What is shedding 50 pounds of fat and knowing you can keep it off the rest of your life worth? What is building a career that totally fulfills you worth? A trick I learned from Brian Tracy is to invest 3% of your income on your own personal development. I don’t know why he specifically uses 3%, but that seems about right to me. So if you earn $5000 per month, you’d invest just $150 per month on your own personal development. You could buy about 10 paperback business or self-help books; those are typically $12-16 each (but that’s a lot to read in a month). Or you could order about 3 six-cassette or six-CD audio programs; those are usually around $50-60 each, often $20-30 if you buy them used. Or that $150 could go toward the cost of a seminar or conference. Most one-day personal development seminars I’m familiar with are around $100, with 3-day or longer ones typically in the $200-600 range (although they can go much higher, well over $10,000). I find it best to mix and match different types of learning. For example, last month I bought an audio program, a few books, and went to a 3-day seminar. You don’t have to spend that exact percentage every month. It’s fine to underspend one month and overspend another. But aim for about 3% for the year on average. If that amount makes you uncomfortable, start with 1% the first month and build up gradually. Or just start with a fixed amount like $20 until you get the hang of it. You can use this budget to invest in improving yourself any way you like. So that includes not just knowledge, but also equipment and services — anything that helps you grow and improve. For example, I used this budget to put together a home gym with a weight station, an exercise bike, and lots of free weights. If you’re feeling stressed, you could use the money to get a professional massage (in my area those are usually $40-100 for an hour). My wife likes spending half a day at the Luxor Spa now and then. If you feel it would be a growth experience for you, go for it. Take sky-diving lessons. Tour a museum. Join a club or association. Buy software to learn to type faster. Take flute lessons. Take tennis lessons. Get a PDA. This is a pretty easy habit to develop too. Just write on your calendar on the 1st of each month: “Invest 3% in myself.” Then when that date comes up, figure out how much money you made the previous month, and then decide how you’ll spend it. If you can, spend it right away — easy when you order online. Remember that this is an investment; the money you spend here will be repaid in the long run based on how you invest it. If you run your own business, you can decide whether you want to invest a percentage of your gross or your net income. I use the gross, which obviously gives me a higher budget. Use whatever figure you feel most comfortable with. Even though I’m shopping-challenged, this is the kind of shopping I enjoy. You can give me a $10,000 shopping spree at the local mall, and I won’t be able to find anything I want. But when it comes to investing in knowledge and skills, suddenly I have no trouble coming up with a wish list. It’s fun to think, “OK, I have $X to spend on my own personal growth. How shall I do it?” Let’s buy 30 shares of better health, 10 shares of financial prosperity, 5 shares of communication skills, and 20 shares of relationship building. Happy spending!
    Jul 12, 2011 883
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Last week I read Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. I felt the book was filled with too many long-winded stories and could have been reduced in size by at least half, but I liked the overall message, which is that execution is a key part of strategy. Let me ‘splain…. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. I’ll cover how this principle can be applied both for a business and for an individual. First, let’s say you run a business. You set some goals for the next year, and then you map out a plan to achieve those goals. Everything looks good on paper. But then your company tries to execute the strategy over the course of the year, and it flops. But it flops not because the strategy itself was flawed but because the execution of the strategy was bungled. It’s like a football coach calling for a particular play (a play that is the correct call for the given situation), and the players on the field execute that play ineptly — they don’t do what they’re supposed to do. So even though the coach called the right play, the team couldn’t execute it well enough to get the expected result. Bossidy and Charan point out that this is an extremely common problem in business. They use AT&T as one of their many examples. A few years ago AT&T set some ambitious goals and worked out a strategy that seemed perfectly sound, but they couldn’t execute it well enough, and it cost them dearly. The authors recommend a methodology for including execution as part of any strategy. So if you’re going to make a plan, you need to drill down into how you’re actually going to execute it and figure out if it can actually be done. Do you have the right people with the right skills? Do you have the right resources? Is there enough time to pull it off? So that coach who called for a play his team couldn’t execute actually called the wrong play then; he needed to consider the likely execution of the play before deciding which play to call. How many times have you seen this problem in software development? A brilliant design for a new software product is created, but the development team can’t actually create it. They don’t have the right mix of talent, management, and resources required to get the job done on time and on budget. It doesn’t matter how great the plan is if the team can’t actually execute it. One of the reasons I read books about big businesses is that I often learn ideas that can be applied as an individual. So even though the authors of Execution only focused on big business strategy, let’s consider how this concept might be applied to you as an individual. Have you ever written out a plan for your day or your week and then failed to execute the plan successfully? Have you ever worked out a new diet or exercise plan and then not followed it? Add my name to the guilty list too. So you created what seemed like a good plan, but then you bungled the execution. But couldn’t you say that the plan was unsound to begin with then because it didn’t take execution into account? If you make a plan for your day, you have to consider your own strengths and weaknesses as an integral part of that plan. However unsatisfying this sounds, it means you have to consider your level of self-discipline, laziness, tendency to procrastinate, intelligence, skills, etc. If you assigned your plan to someone else just like you, what would the expected outcome be? Would that person be able to execute it? If not, where would they fall short? What kind of plan could that person execute well? Another way of saying this is that personal planning requires a high degree of self-awareness. If you know you’re 80% likely to procrastinate on your very first “to do” item and that doing so will throw off the rest of your plan, then your plan itself is unsound. You have to muster enough awareness to know how you’re most likely to execute it. This is one of those ideas that sounds like common sense, yet it isn’t commonly applied. I’ve fallen victim to this trap often, planning my days in advance as if I’ll execute them with android-like proficiency and failing to accurately predict what’s actually going to happen when I try to execute it with all my human weaknesses. It’s hard to look at a really cool-looking plan for your day and say to yourself, “Mr. Data could execute this, but I probably can’t.” So the general solution is to take a hard look at yourself, develop an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, and get to know which kinds of plans you can execute well and which you’ll probably bungle. Whenever you make a plan, consider how you’re likely to execute it. Keep track of how well you do execute and under what conditions you work like a dog vs. being lazy. As you create your own plans then, think about how you can re-create the conditions where you work best while minimizing the conditions which distract you. Now if you discover that overall, you’re really bad at executing what you need to get done, despite doing your best to compensate, then you may consider looking for a different line of work that’s a better fit for your skills and talents. You can also educate yourself to improve your skills, turning your areas of weakness into new strengths. What you don’t want to do though is remain stuck in a situation where your execution always falls short of your plans.
    990 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Last week I read Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. I felt the book was filled with too many long-winded stories and could have been reduced in size by at least half, but I liked the overall message, which is that execution is a key part of strategy. Let me ‘splain…. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. I’ll cover how this principle can be applied both for a business and for an individual. First, let’s say you run a business. You set some goals for the next year, and then you map out a plan to achieve those goals. Everything looks good on paper. But then your company tries to execute the strategy over the course of the year, and it flops. But it flops not because the strategy itself was flawed but because the execution of the strategy was bungled. It’s like a football coach calling for a particular play (a play that is the correct call for the given situation), and the players on the field execute that play ineptly — they don’t do what they’re supposed to do. So even though the coach called the right play, the team couldn’t execute it well enough to get the expected result. Bossidy and Charan point out that this is an extremely common problem in business. They use AT&T as one of their many examples. A few years ago AT&T set some ambitious goals and worked out a strategy that seemed perfectly sound, but they couldn’t execute it well enough, and it cost them dearly. The authors recommend a methodology for including execution as part of any strategy. So if you’re going to make a plan, you need to drill down into how you’re actually going to execute it and figure out if it can actually be done. Do you have the right people with the right skills? Do you have the right resources? Is there enough time to pull it off? So that coach who called for a play his team couldn’t execute actually called the wrong play then; he needed to consider the likely execution of the play before deciding which play to call. How many times have you seen this problem in software development? A brilliant design for a new software product is created, but the development team can’t actually create it. They don’t have the right mix of talent, management, and resources required to get the job done on time and on budget. It doesn’t matter how great the plan is if the team can’t actually execute it. One of the reasons I read books about big businesses is that I often learn ideas that can be applied as an individual. So even though the authors of Execution only focused on big business strategy, let’s consider how this concept might be applied to you as an individual. Have you ever written out a plan for your day or your week and then failed to execute the plan successfully? Have you ever worked out a new diet or exercise plan and then not followed it? Add my name to the guilty list too. So you created what seemed like a good plan, but then you bungled the execution. But couldn’t you say that the plan was unsound to begin with then because it didn’t take execution into account? If you make a plan for your day, you have to consider your own strengths and weaknesses as an integral part of that plan. However unsatisfying this sounds, it means you have to consider your level of self-discipline, laziness, tendency to procrastinate, intelligence, skills, etc. If you assigned your plan to someone else just like you, what would the expected outcome be? Would that person be able to execute it? If not, where would they fall short? What kind of plan could that person execute well? Another way of saying this is that personal planning requires a high degree of self-awareness. If you know you’re 80% likely to procrastinate on your very first “to do” item and that doing so will throw off the rest of your plan, then your plan itself is unsound. You have to muster enough awareness to know how you’re most likely to execute it. This is one of those ideas that sounds like common sense, yet it isn’t commonly applied. I’ve fallen victim to this trap often, planning my days in advance as if I’ll execute them with android-like proficiency and failing to accurately predict what’s actually going to happen when I try to execute it with all my human weaknesses. It’s hard to look at a really cool-looking plan for your day and say to yourself, “Mr. Data could execute this, but I probably can’t.” So the general solution is to take a hard look at yourself, develop an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, and get to know which kinds of plans you can execute well and which you’ll probably bungle. Whenever you make a plan, consider how you’re likely to execute it. Keep track of how well you do execute and under what conditions you work like a dog vs. being lazy. As you create your own plans then, think about how you can re-create the conditions where you work best while minimizing the conditions which distract you. Now if you discover that overall, you’re really bad at executing what you need to get done, despite doing your best to compensate, then you may consider looking for a different line of work that’s a better fit for your skills and talents. You can also educate yourself to improve your skills, turning your areas of weakness into new strengths. What you don’t want to do though is remain stuck in a situation where your execution always falls short of your plans.
    Jul 12, 2011 990
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Balancing thought and action is a challenge for many people, especially those who are self-employed. How much time should you spend thinking vs. doing? We hear things like, “failing to plan is planning to fail,” implying that careful thought must govern all action. But then there are also the cries of, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!” pressing for immediate action. How do you know when to think vs. when to act? Where’s the point of balance between analysis paralysis on the thinking side and excessive impulsivity on the action side? It seems clear you need a good balance between the two, especially when running your own business. Both are important. I used to have this problem of wondering whether I was overacting and under-thinking or over-planning and under-acting, but the problem ceased to exist when I shifted my perspective on a different level. Now it feels to me that thought and action are more similar than they are different. One is a mental action; the other is a physical one. I think the feeling of imbalance between thought and action is itself a symptom of a greater internal incongruence. You think you need to balance the two when they’re both taking you in different directions. You think in one direction but act in another. It’s easy to fall into this state of imbalance when you experience a moderate perspective shift in your thinking, but your past momentum still rules your actions. So you keep working under your previous paradigm but thinking under your new paradigm. That’s when you’ll begin feeling a division between thought and action. You get results from both, but each is taking you in a slightly different direction. So you end up constantly questioning which is the right way to go. It seems like a conflict between thought and action, but if you look deep enough, you’ll see it’s really a conflict between two paradigms — the old and the new. I think the most common case would be when your thoughts take you in a new direction, while your actions are rooted in old habits. But it could also be the other way around, where your behavior shifts to something new, and your thoughts have yet to catch up. That can happen when your external environment forces a behavior change — you move to a new city, switch jobs, enter a new relationship, etc. Your mental model of who you are hasn’t yet integrated the full extent of your new environment. So while you can view a conflict between thought and action as causing a lack of clarity in your life, I think it’s more likely that the opposite is true — a lack of clarity creates a perceived conflict between thought and action. Thought and action can be perceived as two different dimensions of who you are: the mental you and the physical you. But there are other dimensions as well: the emotional you and the spiritual you. So one way to break through a perceived impasse between thought and action is to consult your other dimensions of emotions and spirit to see the situation from other perspectives. What do your feelings say about the conflict? What does your conscience tell you? When you put all four of these dimensions together and collect input from all of them: the physical you, the mental you, the emotional you, and the spiritual you, you now have a lot more information about the problem, seeing all four sides instead of just two. Ultimately this allows you to envision a higher-level solution where all four of these “yous” can become congruent, all pointing in the same direction. And this will allow you to transcend the original problem entirely. Albert Einstein said that the greatest problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them. The problem of a perceived conflict between thought and action cannot be solved at the level of thoughts and actions. You need to take a step back and see the perspectives of all four parts: body, mind, heart, and soul. Only then will a total solution begin to come into focus. Let’s shove this abstract stuff down into a more concrete real-world example. Suppose you run your own business. You think and plan about how to grow the business. This seems like a good idea as you enjoy running the business (at least at its current level), and it would be nice to increase your income. Growing the business seems like a pretty good idea. You feel that you have the necessary skills to do it too. But then when it comes to action, you feel stuck. You can’t seem to get moving. You keep working on urgent things, and the important growth projects stall. So you figure maybe your plans were wrong, and you go back to the comfort of doing more thinking and planning. And the same thing happens. And then you start thinking about planning and maybe that you’re over-planning, and you enter the stuck state of analysis paralysis, where your thinking becomes circular. You start to wonder why you aren’t taking action to grow the business, when your plans all look so good on paper. What’s holding you back? At the level of thinking and action, you can’t solve the problem. You’ll just stay perpetually stuck. You may have what feels like a productive day now and then, but you won’t have that feeling of perpetual productivity that takes you through each and every day with a feeling of fulfillment and flow. So what’s the solution? It’s time to consult the other parts of you who’ve been trying to speak up but who haven’t been heard. Start with your emotions. How do you honestly feel about growing the business? Maybe you’re getting mixed signals there. Perhaps you feel it would be great to have a bigger business, but you’re also a bit uneasy about how much more work it would mean. Your feelings further verify that you’re internally incongruent. You aren’t totally 100% committed to the idea of growing your business. It partly seems like the right thing to do, but it also partly feels wrong, and you can’t quite put your finger on it. Consulting your feelings gives you more evidence that something is wrong, but it doesn’t point you in the direction of a solution. Time to visit another advisor. So now you consult with your spirit, your conscience, your deepest and most sacred beliefs. This is the quietest part of you, so you have to be alone and undisturbed to hear it clearly. One of the best questions to ask here is, “What should I be doing?” You can also try, “What’s true for me?” And then listen internally for the truth, not for what you want to hear. If you’re internally conflicted between thoughts, actions, and feelings, then your spiritual answer will explain why. And it won’t pull its punches. It can take some courage to listen to this inner voice and not tune it out, but this is a voice that must be heeded if you ever want to restore congruence and experience balance again. This inner voice may say to you, “You’re not living in accordance with what you believe” or “This isn’t what you’re here to do.” It will look at your business and ask all the big questions. How will growing your business affect your character? How will it impact all the people it touches? How does it mesh with your deepest sense of right and wrong? Is it contributing? Does it truly help people in the way they most need to be helped? Are you passionate about it? Is this the best you can do? This is a very individual process. I can’t say where it will lead in the short term, but in in the long term, listening to all four of these parts of yourself — body, mind, heart, soul — will help you envision a way of living where all parts of your life can become congruent. You don’t have to take a flying leap into living spiritually and go broke doing it. All four parts can be in balance. But you have to listen to all four and get their input in order to understand the direction where that balance lies. I believe all four dimensions have their own valid perspective. One perspective is no better or worse than another. Some problems are simple enough that they only need a single perspective to solve them. Your body can tackle the challenge of eating a meal without much conscious thought. Your mind can solve a math problem without needing to consult your feelings. Your emotions can signal danger without consulting your spirit. But sometimes these parts don’t listen to each other. Your body tries to gobble up the junk food while your mind says, “Put that donut down!” Your mind focuses on negative outcomes while your emotions say, “You’re stressing me out here!” And you start plotting revenge out of anger while your spirit says, “You believe in forgiveness.” Each part of you has its own unique perspective, and each is wise in its own way. By listening to all four parts and iterating through them again and again, you eventually reach a state of congruence. It’s an internal negotiation process. Body wants that donut. Mind says no. Spirit says, “Blech. The donut maker treats her employees harshly.” Heart says “Mmmmm, donut!” Body says, “I’m hungry.” Mind says, “OK, you can have a muffin instead.” Spirit says, “Make sure it’s organic.” Body says, “OK, I’ll have an organic banana nut muffin.” Heart says, “Banana nut… now that’s good muffin!” The same goes for career. Body wants big salary. Mind wants interesting work that fits our talents. Heart wants fun. Spirit wants meaningful contribution. Body says, “Contribution? You trying to starve us?” Heart says, “Contribution would make us feel good, but I don’t want to do dull and boring work all day.” Spirit says, “Mind, figure out how contribution can be fun.” Mind says, “It has to be a form of service that fits our talents so we’re good at it, and our passion so we enjoy it.” Heart says, “Mmmmmm, passion.” Body says, “Excuse me, but how the heck are we gonna make a living at this?” Mind says, “If we do what we’re best at, and there’s a demand for it, people will be happy to pay us for it.” Body says, “You’ll have to do better than that to convince me. I know we can make $X right now doing Y, and that’s good enough for me.” Mind says, “Here, eat this muffin while I think about it.” Heart says, “I wouldn’t feel good working only for money.” Spirit says, “Everybody make a list of the types of careers that could satisfy you.” Everybody makes their own list. They all negotiate back and forth until they find one that pleases all of them. Heart rejects accountant. Spirit rejects the adult web site idea. Mind rejects professional athlete. Body rejects psychologist. They eventually reject everything on every list and have to go back to make new lists, but they do a better job the second time because now they understand what the others want. So they each start listing ideas that have a better chance of acceptance by all. And after a while they find a few that actually work, and they pick the best of those. Through this internal negotiation process, they discover the best option, so they can finally commit. Congruence is achieved, and moving forward, the new career will satisfy all four parts as fully as possible. All perceived conflict between thought vs. action vanishes. Thoughts, actions, feelings, and beliefs are all headed in the same direction.
    960 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Balancing thought and action is a challenge for many people, especially those who are self-employed. How much time should you spend thinking vs. doing? We hear things like, “failing to plan is planning to fail,” implying that careful thought must govern all action. But then there are also the cries of, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!” pressing for immediate action. How do you know when to think vs. when to act? Where’s the point of balance between analysis paralysis on the thinking side and excessive impulsivity on the action side? It seems clear you need a good balance between the two, especially when running your own business. Both are important. I used to have this problem of wondering whether I was overacting and under-thinking or over-planning and under-acting, but the problem ceased to exist when I shifted my perspective on a different level. Now it feels to me that thought and action are more similar than they are different. One is a mental action; the other is a physical one. I think the feeling of imbalance between thought and action is itself a symptom of a greater internal incongruence. You think you need to balance the two when they’re both taking you in different directions. You think in one direction but act in another. It’s easy to fall into this state of imbalance when you experience a moderate perspective shift in your thinking, but your past momentum still rules your actions. So you keep working under your previous paradigm but thinking under your new paradigm. That’s when you’ll begin feeling a division between thought and action. You get results from both, but each is taking you in a slightly different direction. So you end up constantly questioning which is the right way to go. It seems like a conflict between thought and action, but if you look deep enough, you’ll see it’s really a conflict between two paradigms — the old and the new. I think the most common case would be when your thoughts take you in a new direction, while your actions are rooted in old habits. But it could also be the other way around, where your behavior shifts to something new, and your thoughts have yet to catch up. That can happen when your external environment forces a behavior change — you move to a new city, switch jobs, enter a new relationship, etc. Your mental model of who you are hasn’t yet integrated the full extent of your new environment. So while you can view a conflict between thought and action as causing a lack of clarity in your life, I think it’s more likely that the opposite is true — a lack of clarity creates a perceived conflict between thought and action. Thought and action can be perceived as two different dimensions of who you are: the mental you and the physical you. But there are other dimensions as well: the emotional you and the spiritual you. So one way to break through a perceived impasse between thought and action is to consult your other dimensions of emotions and spirit to see the situation from other perspectives. What do your feelings say about the conflict? What does your conscience tell you? When you put all four of these dimensions together and collect input from all of them: the physical you, the mental you, the emotional you, and the spiritual you, you now have a lot more information about the problem, seeing all four sides instead of just two. Ultimately this allows you to envision a higher-level solution where all four of these “yous” can become congruent, all pointing in the same direction. And this will allow you to transcend the original problem entirely. Albert Einstein said that the greatest problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them. The problem of a perceived conflict between thought and action cannot be solved at the level of thoughts and actions. You need to take a step back and see the perspectives of all four parts: body, mind, heart, and soul. Only then will a total solution begin to come into focus. Let’s shove this abstract stuff down into a more concrete real-world example. Suppose you run your own business. You think and plan about how to grow the business. This seems like a good idea as you enjoy running the business (at least at its current level), and it would be nice to increase your income. Growing the business seems like a pretty good idea. You feel that you have the necessary skills to do it too. But then when it comes to action, you feel stuck. You can’t seem to get moving. You keep working on urgent things, and the important growth projects stall. So you figure maybe your plans were wrong, and you go back to the comfort of doing more thinking and planning. And the same thing happens. And then you start thinking about planning and maybe that you’re over-planning, and you enter the stuck state of analysis paralysis, where your thinking becomes circular. You start to wonder why you aren’t taking action to grow the business, when your plans all look so good on paper. What’s holding you back? At the level of thinking and action, you can’t solve the problem. You’ll just stay perpetually stuck. You may have what feels like a productive day now and then, but you won’t have that feeling of perpetual productivity that takes you through each and every day with a feeling of fulfillment and flow. So what’s the solution? It’s time to consult the other parts of you who’ve been trying to speak up but who haven’t been heard. Start with your emotions. How do you honestly feel about growing the business? Maybe you’re getting mixed signals there. Perhaps you feel it would be great to have a bigger business, but you’re also a bit uneasy about how much more work it would mean. Your feelings further verify that you’re internally incongruent. You aren’t totally 100% committed to the idea of growing your business. It partly seems like the right thing to do, but it also partly feels wrong, and you can’t quite put your finger on it. Consulting your feelings gives you more evidence that something is wrong, but it doesn’t point you in the direction of a solution. Time to visit another advisor. So now you consult with your spirit, your conscience, your deepest and most sacred beliefs. This is the quietest part of you, so you have to be alone and undisturbed to hear it clearly. One of the best questions to ask here is, “What should I be doing?” You can also try, “What’s true for me?” And then listen internally for the truth, not for what you want to hear. If you’re internally conflicted between thoughts, actions, and feelings, then your spiritual answer will explain why. And it won’t pull its punches. It can take some courage to listen to this inner voice and not tune it out, but this is a voice that must be heeded if you ever want to restore congruence and experience balance again. This inner voice may say to you, “You’re not living in accordance with what you believe” or “This isn’t what you’re here to do.” It will look at your business and ask all the big questions. How will growing your business affect your character? How will it impact all the people it touches? How does it mesh with your deepest sense of right and wrong? Is it contributing? Does it truly help people in the way they most need to be helped? Are you passionate about it? Is this the best you can do? This is a very individual process. I can’t say where it will lead in the short term, but in in the long term, listening to all four of these parts of yourself — body, mind, heart, soul — will help you envision a way of living where all parts of your life can become congruent. You don’t have to take a flying leap into living spiritually and go broke doing it. All four parts can be in balance. But you have to listen to all four and get their input in order to understand the direction where that balance lies. I believe all four dimensions have their own valid perspective. One perspective is no better or worse than another. Some problems are simple enough that they only need a single perspective to solve them. Your body can tackle the challenge of eating a meal without much conscious thought. Your mind can solve a math problem without needing to consult your feelings. Your emotions can signal danger without consulting your spirit. But sometimes these parts don’t listen to each other. Your body tries to gobble up the junk food while your mind says, “Put that donut down!” Your mind focuses on negative outcomes while your emotions say, “You’re stressing me out here!” And you start plotting revenge out of anger while your spirit says, “You believe in forgiveness.” Each part of you has its own unique perspective, and each is wise in its own way. By listening to all four parts and iterating through them again and again, you eventually reach a state of congruence. It’s an internal negotiation process. Body wants that donut. Mind says no. Spirit says, “Blech. The donut maker treats her employees harshly.” Heart says “Mmmmm, donut!” Body says, “I’m hungry.” Mind says, “OK, you can have a muffin instead.” Spirit says, “Make sure it’s organic.” Body says, “OK, I’ll have an organic banana nut muffin.” Heart says, “Banana nut… now that’s good muffin!” The same goes for career. Body wants big salary. Mind wants interesting work that fits our talents. Heart wants fun. Spirit wants meaningful contribution. Body says, “Contribution? You trying to starve us?” Heart says, “Contribution would make us feel good, but I don’t want to do dull and boring work all day.” Spirit says, “Mind, figure out how contribution can be fun.” Mind says, “It has to be a form of service that fits our talents so we’re good at it, and our passion so we enjoy it.” Heart says, “Mmmmmm, passion.” Body says, “Excuse me, but how the heck are we gonna make a living at this?” Mind says, “If we do what we’re best at, and there’s a demand for it, people will be happy to pay us for it.” Body says, “You’ll have to do better than that to convince me. I know we can make $X right now doing Y, and that’s good enough for me.” Mind says, “Here, eat this muffin while I think about it.” Heart says, “I wouldn’t feel good working only for money.” Spirit says, “Everybody make a list of the types of careers that could satisfy you.” Everybody makes their own list. They all negotiate back and forth until they find one that pleases all of them. Heart rejects accountant. Spirit rejects the adult web site idea. Mind rejects professional athlete. Body rejects psychologist. They eventually reject everything on every list and have to go back to make new lists, but they do a better job the second time because now they understand what the others want. So they each start listing ideas that have a better chance of acceptance by all. And after a while they find a few that actually work, and they pick the best of those. Through this internal negotiation process, they discover the best option, so they can finally commit. Congruence is achieved, and moving forward, the new career will satisfy all four parts as fully as possible. All perceived conflict between thought vs. action vanishes. Thoughts, actions, feelings, and beliefs are all headed in the same direction.
    Jul 12, 2011 960
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I wrote and posted another new article called “Marketing From Your Conscience.” In this article the concept of marketing is meant both professionally (marketing products and services) and personally (marketing yourself for a job or a relationship). The main point of the article is to show how marketing can be done much more effectively when it’s fully aligned (i.e. congruent) with one’s conscience. A misalignment between marketing and conscience is one I’ve seen repeatedly in the shareware industry, which is what lead me to write an article on this topic. Many shareware developers invest months of hard work to make a new product and then barely market it at all. I’d have to guess that most first-time shareware developers invest in the range of 20 to 100 hours marketing their first product. The amount of marketing effort I’d advise for a decent shareware product is in the range of 500 to 1000 hours (about 3-6 person-months full-time) as a minimum, and that’s just for the initial launch promotion. 100 hours is really just token marketing that will cover the basics like doing a press release, search engine optimization, submitting to download sites, newsgroup announcements, and a few other standard shareware promotional tasks. This is nothing but a mosquito bite in terms of what it takes to really get the word out. So I wondered why someone would spend 1000 hours to make a product and then only 50 hours to tell people about it, which IMO is too little time to really make a dent and generate sufficient sales unless you happen to get lucky. With all the zillions of marketing books and free marketing advice you can find online, there’s clearly no shortage of marketing ideas on this planet. Many cost nothing at all to implement. Over the past 5 months, I was able to build this site’s traffic from nothing to its current level of 4000 visits per day without spending a dime on marketing. (In fact, the total amount of money I’ve spent on this site so far has been $9 just to register the domain; I’m not even paying for hosting or bandwidth). So a lack of knowledge or a lack of money is no excuse for a lack of marketing because if you know you lack knowledge, then all you’ve got to do is get a book and start reading. This is the information age. “I don’t know how” just isn’t a valid excuse anymore. Learn how. There are people who spend their whole careers doing marketing work, and they don’t seem to run out of things to do, but somehow many shareware developers feel they’ve done all they can after a mere 50 hours. Eventually I figured out that when people said, “I don’t know how to do marketing,” what they’re really saying is, “I don’t want to market this product because deep down I know people would be better off not buying it. It’s a product that didn’t really need to be created. I made a mistake in developing it in the first place. So the more I market it, the guiltier I feel, and the more good time I throw after bad. But I’m not ready to admit that to myself just yet, so I’m going to do some shallow token marketing and then spend the rest of my time complaining about low sales while developing product #2. I’ll have a lot of trouble finishing #2 though because I know when I finish it, I’ll have to market it too, and I don’t really think this product will be one people should buy either. I don’t see a way out of this though, so I’ll just tell myself and others I’m not good at marketing, even though I could get good at it if I wanted to. And for good measure, perhaps I’ll throw a pity party to whine about the whole industry being broken as well (even though I know there are others thriving under current conditions). Just don’t force me to admit that I wasted so much time creating a product no one really needs.” Enjoy the article.
    804 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I wrote and posted another new article called “Marketing From Your Conscience.” In this article the concept of marketing is meant both professionally (marketing products and services) and personally (marketing yourself for a job or a relationship). The main point of the article is to show how marketing can be done much more effectively when it’s fully aligned (i.e. congruent) with one’s conscience. A misalignment between marketing and conscience is one I’ve seen repeatedly in the shareware industry, which is what lead me to write an article on this topic. Many shareware developers invest months of hard work to make a new product and then barely market it at all. I’d have to guess that most first-time shareware developers invest in the range of 20 to 100 hours marketing their first product. The amount of marketing effort I’d advise for a decent shareware product is in the range of 500 to 1000 hours (about 3-6 person-months full-time) as a minimum, and that’s just for the initial launch promotion. 100 hours is really just token marketing that will cover the basics like doing a press release, search engine optimization, submitting to download sites, newsgroup announcements, and a few other standard shareware promotional tasks. This is nothing but a mosquito bite in terms of what it takes to really get the word out. So I wondered why someone would spend 1000 hours to make a product and then only 50 hours to tell people about it, which IMO is too little time to really make a dent and generate sufficient sales unless you happen to get lucky. With all the zillions of marketing books and free marketing advice you can find online, there’s clearly no shortage of marketing ideas on this planet. Many cost nothing at all to implement. Over the past 5 months, I was able to build this site’s traffic from nothing to its current level of 4000 visits per day without spending a dime on marketing. (In fact, the total amount of money I’ve spent on this site so far has been $9 just to register the domain; I’m not even paying for hosting or bandwidth). So a lack of knowledge or a lack of money is no excuse for a lack of marketing because if you know you lack knowledge, then all you’ve got to do is get a book and start reading. This is the information age. “I don’t know how” just isn’t a valid excuse anymore. Learn how. There are people who spend their whole careers doing marketing work, and they don’t seem to run out of things to do, but somehow many shareware developers feel they’ve done all they can after a mere 50 hours. Eventually I figured out that when people said, “I don’t know how to do marketing,” what they’re really saying is, “I don’t want to market this product because deep down I know people would be better off not buying it. It’s a product that didn’t really need to be created. I made a mistake in developing it in the first place. So the more I market it, the guiltier I feel, and the more good time I throw after bad. But I’m not ready to admit that to myself just yet, so I’m going to do some shallow token marketing and then spend the rest of my time complaining about low sales while developing product #2. I’ll have a lot of trouble finishing #2 though because I know when I finish it, I’ll have to market it too, and I don’t really think this product will be one people should buy either. I don’t see a way out of this though, so I’ll just tell myself and others I’m not good at marketing, even though I could get good at it if I wanted to. And for good measure, perhaps I’ll throw a pity party to whine about the whole industry being broken as well (even though I know there are others thriving under current conditions). Just don’t force me to admit that I wasted so much time creating a product no one really needs.” Enjoy the article.
    Jul 12, 2011 804
  • 12 Jul 2011
    As Albert Einstein once remarked, “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” I read an interesting article about how the world of chess has changed after Deep Blue defeated World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov in 1997. But what’s interesting is not so much the parity; it’s that humans and machines play chess so differently yet still come up even. Instead of pushing humans out of the game and turning it into a battle of machines, chess is evolving into a man-machine collaboration. Business itself has changed in much the same way. Instead of man vs. machine as often seen during the Industrial Revolution, in competitive industries we now see now man/machine vs. man/machine. Let’s just hope the best of both worlds doesn’t become “The Best of Both Worlds.”
    815 Posted by UniqueThis
  • As Albert Einstein once remarked, “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” I read an interesting article about how the world of chess has changed after Deep Blue defeated World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov in 1997. But what’s interesting is not so much the parity; it’s that humans and machines play chess so differently yet still come up even. Instead of pushing humans out of the game and turning it into a battle of machines, chess is evolving into a man-machine collaboration. Business itself has changed in much the same way. Instead of man vs. machine as often seen during the Industrial Revolution, in competitive industries we now see now man/machine vs. man/machine. Let’s just hope the best of both worlds doesn’t become “The Best of Both Worlds.”
    Jul 12, 2011 815
  • 12 Jul 2011
    One of the things I’m struggling with in my life right now is making the leap to what I see as the next level of awareness I want to experience. I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m very clear about my purpose, and it has become a powerful driver for me. Whenever I align myself with the purpose of serving others as best I can and expecting nothing in return, my motivation is powerful and I live totally in the present moment. At the same time, part of my life is still being run at the level of business, career, and money. This is the level where my ego gets involved, and I think about things like writing and self-publishing info products, generating income, building a business, putting on my own seminars, building a brand, etc. But I can also see that this is a lower level of awareness than that at which my purpose draws me towards. When I work at the level of purpose, my concern for these business factors fades. When I work at the level of business, my ability to live my purpose is weakened. The problem is that these are two different levels of consciousness; they’re incongruent. I can shift between the two states, but I can’t remain in both simultaneously. The level of business suggests that I build a line of info products to sell and/or make money as a professional speaker. I have to support myself and my family financially. But at this level, I’m creating information that I “own,” protecting copyrights, and creating a business entity whose survival I must then protect — from fraud, competition, etc. But the level of purpose means that I devote my life purely to service. This is the level that suggests that no true teacher seeks material gain. At this level, I write and speak for free. Material gain is irrelevant. I only need to cover my basic needs, so I can keep doing my best to help people. I ran Dexterity Software for many years at the level of business. I know very well what that level is like. Creating cool products, dealing with customers, outsmarting competitors, negotiating contracts, etc. It’s an exciting ride. But that level ceases to provide any meaning for me now. I’ve simply lost all interest in working for material gain. At one time money and success in business were very motivating to me, but now they’re empty and hollow when compared to other pursuits. I’ve read that the Buddha experienced a similar shift in his thinking in his late 20s, when he realized he could no longer enjoy his princely riches while there was still suffering in the world. I can relate to that. The level of purpose has become so much more real to me now. I would rather invest tremendous effort in helping someone solve one of their most difficult problems for no material gain whatsoever than become a billionaire. I know that may sound like an exaggeration, but at the level of awareness I’m at as I type this, it’s true for me. This is the level at which I’ve been working for the past six months. I’ve been writing for free and speaking for free, doing so primarily out of a desire to grow and to serve others. And even though I’ve only scratched the surface of my purpose, it’s been tremendously fulfilling. I can feel that when I try to take this purpose and turn it into a business motivated by profit, that type of thinking lowers my awareness and my energy. And yet somehow, when I don’t worry about the money, I always seem to have plenty. At this level I’m tapping into a source of abundance which is more powerful than the level of business. Instead of exchanging information and ideas for money, I just give everything away without expecting anything in return. I could have written and self-published a book or two by now and generated a small pile of cash if I focused on that instead of writing for free. But deep down I know that my purpose must be centered around service first and foremost. When I work at that level, everything seems to work effortlessly. When I ran Dexterity Software, I never quite understood the people who contributed to “free” open source software for no material gain, often seeing them as a lower life form compared to those who created “real” software to sell. This view is fairly common among shareware developers, who work hard to protect their copyrighted materials from piracy because it’s the source of their income. My perspective has changed, however, and I now see such selfless contributors as potentially living at a much higher level of awareness than I gave them credit for. And yet still it’s very tempting to return to the level of business that I’m familiar with. But I know it’s only fear that’s holding me back. I need to raise my awareness to a high enough level where I can transcend the fear of not being able to meet my basic needs (and those of my family). As long as this universe continues to allow it, I will do my best to continue putting my focus on service first. Right now I can still feel myself oscillating between these two levels though — I haven’t yet completed the quantum leap to the higher level. One thing that will help is if I can attract into my life someone who’s already at that level and can help me make this transition, so I’m focusing on that intention. I can see glimpses of the state of being I wish to reach, and for brief periods I experience it, but it is not yet real in my daily existence. I’m in the state right now which has been referred to as the “dark night of the soul,” where I’ve left behind one reality but haven’t yet landed in the next. Because I’ve pushed myself to grow so much over the past decade, I’ve experienced this point before. One previous episode was right before I created the game Dweep — just before developing that game, I transitioned from a lower awareness level to a new higher level, where I was driven by the desire to put something out into the world that was really my best work and which would positively impact people who experienced it; business success was not my primary motivation. So here I am once again, now trying to reach a level where I am driven purely by the intention to serve, wondering if at such a level, there is indeed no need to worry about meeting one’s basic needs. I intend to continue along this path as long as this reality will physically allow it.
    810 Posted by UniqueThis
  • One of the things I’m struggling with in my life right now is making the leap to what I see as the next level of awareness I want to experience. I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m very clear about my purpose, and it has become a powerful driver for me. Whenever I align myself with the purpose of serving others as best I can and expecting nothing in return, my motivation is powerful and I live totally in the present moment. At the same time, part of my life is still being run at the level of business, career, and money. This is the level where my ego gets involved, and I think about things like writing and self-publishing info products, generating income, building a business, putting on my own seminars, building a brand, etc. But I can also see that this is a lower level of awareness than that at which my purpose draws me towards. When I work at the level of purpose, my concern for these business factors fades. When I work at the level of business, my ability to live my purpose is weakened. The problem is that these are two different levels of consciousness; they’re incongruent. I can shift between the two states, but I can’t remain in both simultaneously. The level of business suggests that I build a line of info products to sell and/or make money as a professional speaker. I have to support myself and my family financially. But at this level, I’m creating information that I “own,” protecting copyrights, and creating a business entity whose survival I must then protect — from fraud, competition, etc. But the level of purpose means that I devote my life purely to service. This is the level that suggests that no true teacher seeks material gain. At this level, I write and speak for free. Material gain is irrelevant. I only need to cover my basic needs, so I can keep doing my best to help people. I ran Dexterity Software for many years at the level of business. I know very well what that level is like. Creating cool products, dealing with customers, outsmarting competitors, negotiating contracts, etc. It’s an exciting ride. But that level ceases to provide any meaning for me now. I’ve simply lost all interest in working for material gain. At one time money and success in business were very motivating to me, but now they’re empty and hollow when compared to other pursuits. I’ve read that the Buddha experienced a similar shift in his thinking in his late 20s, when he realized he could no longer enjoy his princely riches while there was still suffering in the world. I can relate to that. The level of purpose has become so much more real to me now. I would rather invest tremendous effort in helping someone solve one of their most difficult problems for no material gain whatsoever than become a billionaire. I know that may sound like an exaggeration, but at the level of awareness I’m at as I type this, it’s true for me. This is the level at which I’ve been working for the past six months. I’ve been writing for free and speaking for free, doing so primarily out of a desire to grow and to serve others. And even though I’ve only scratched the surface of my purpose, it’s been tremendously fulfilling. I can feel that when I try to take this purpose and turn it into a business motivated by profit, that type of thinking lowers my awareness and my energy. And yet somehow, when I don’t worry about the money, I always seem to have plenty. At this level I’m tapping into a source of abundance which is more powerful than the level of business. Instead of exchanging information and ideas for money, I just give everything away without expecting anything in return. I could have written and self-published a book or two by now and generated a small pile of cash if I focused on that instead of writing for free. But deep down I know that my purpose must be centered around service first and foremost. When I work at that level, everything seems to work effortlessly. When I ran Dexterity Software, I never quite understood the people who contributed to “free” open source software for no material gain, often seeing them as a lower life form compared to those who created “real” software to sell. This view is fairly common among shareware developers, who work hard to protect their copyrighted materials from piracy because it’s the source of their income. My perspective has changed, however, and I now see such selfless contributors as potentially living at a much higher level of awareness than I gave them credit for. And yet still it’s very tempting to return to the level of business that I’m familiar with. But I know it’s only fear that’s holding me back. I need to raise my awareness to a high enough level where I can transcend the fear of not being able to meet my basic needs (and those of my family). As long as this universe continues to allow it, I will do my best to continue putting my focus on service first. Right now I can still feel myself oscillating between these two levels though — I haven’t yet completed the quantum leap to the higher level. One thing that will help is if I can attract into my life someone who’s already at that level and can help me make this transition, so I’m focusing on that intention. I can see glimpses of the state of being I wish to reach, and for brief periods I experience it, but it is not yet real in my daily existence. I’m in the state right now which has been referred to as the “dark night of the soul,” where I’ve left behind one reality but haven’t yet landed in the next. Because I’ve pushed myself to grow so much over the past decade, I’ve experienced this point before. One previous episode was right before I created the game Dweep — just before developing that game, I transitioned from a lower awareness level to a new higher level, where I was driven by the desire to put something out into the world that was really my best work and which would positively impact people who experienced it; business success was not my primary motivation. So here I am once again, now trying to reach a level where I am driven purely by the intention to serve, wondering if at such a level, there is indeed no need to worry about meeting one’s basic needs. I intend to continue along this path as long as this reality will physically allow it.
    Jul 12, 2011 810
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Darren Rowse of Problogger.net recently posted a case study of a blogger who decided to quit blogging after six months due to poor financial results: Blog Case Study – Is it time to Quit? Darren’s post is a great read for anyone who runs an online business, not just for bloggers. Interestingly, the points Darren raises in his post are similar to those from an article I wrote in 2002 called “Shareware Amateurs vs. Shareware Professionals.” The blogging “mistakes” Darren notes are common to other online businesses. Three of the most frequent mistakes I’ve seen include: 1. Thinking too short-term The blogger that Darren mentions gave up after only six months. Many shareware developers give up when their first product isn’t a hit. I’ll tell you that if you can achieve financial success with a one-person, shoestring budget business in only six months, you’re probably superhuman. My first four shareware games were all relative flops — it wasn’t until my fifth release that I was able to produce enough income to live off. When I think about the personal development business I’m building, six months is nothing. I’ve been at it for 10 months full-time now, and while I’ve made a reasonable dent in my long-term goals, this business is clearly still an infant. But to me that’s perfectly fine and well within my expectations. This business may be an infant, but it’s a healthy infant who will grow up big and strong. Building a business is a lot like raising a child. It takes time and patience. If you’re going to start a business and you’re only willing to give it six months to prove itself, don’t start a business. That probably isn’t even enough time for a franchise. Would you throw out your child because it can’t fend for itself six months out of the womb? I make most of my business decisions within a working time frame of 2-5 years… and for the big decisions with far-ranging consequences, I’m thinking 10-20 years out. This is just like the parent who starts saving for their child’s college education before the child can even read and write. If you want to start a real business and not just a hobby, think long-term. 2. Failure to optimize An online business will have processes that get executed over and over. Some of these are human processes, but many are executed by technology, and in my opinion, it’s the technological processes that are the most important for an online business. Whenever someone loads up your home page in their web browser, that’s a process being executed. Reading a blog entry is a process. Clicking an ad is a process. Finding the site is a process. Due to the sheer volume of processes an online business executes every day as well as their incredible interconnectedness, it isn’t hard to achieve tremendous performance gains through process optimization. A 10% improvement here, 15% there, 8% there, and pretty soon it begins to add up. As I’m sure some people will recognize, this was the basis of W.E. Deming’s work with the Japanese after WWII. If you can measure it, you can improve it. If you generate income from Google Adsense, for example, there are plenty of web sites that provide practical optimization tips. Just do a Google search on “adsense optimization” and similar search terms, and you’ll find plenty. By gradually applying Adsense optimization tips easily found on the web, I was able to permanently increase this site’s CPM (i.e. revenue per 1000 page views) by 68%. However, by performing other optimizations (search engine optimization, marketing improvements, posting changes, site tweaks, etc.), I was able to increase this site’s daily Adsense revenue by about 500% in five months. Most of these changes took only minutes to implement, like adding RSS subscription buttons to the sidebar or changing the ad colors. If I’d never made these optimizations, it would mean permanently lower revenue, which would mean much slower growth for this business and more problems for me. Optimization is generally one of the easiest ways to increase revenue for an online business. Even just one hour spent on intelligent optimization can generate enormous payoffs down the road. 3. Failure to market effectively How many blogs receive dismal traffic because all the owner does is write posts? I think that if you dare to be an entrepreneur, you need to learn marketing or have someone in your business who’s skilled at marketing. While you can outsource a lot of different business tasks, I don’t think the core marketing of your business should be one of them. I never had any formal marketing education (my college degrees are in computer science and mathematics), but when I started my shareware business, I discovered I needed to learn marketing. In addition to reading marketing books and learning from others, I bought audio recordings of several marketing seminars. It took me a full 18 months to get through them (it was about 100 audio tapes total), but by the time I was done, I had a strong understanding of marketing and plenty of ideas for promoting my business. Marketing doesn’t mean buying advertising, which is arguably the most expensive and least effective form of marketing. I haven’t spent a dime marketing this site, but I have done a lot of marketing work for it. Marketing is really just getting the word out. Don’t keep your site a secret — let as many people know about it as possible. Post comments liberally on other blogs, write articles and allow other sites to use them, swap links with bloggers in the same field, make search-engine friendly pages, and so on. If the content you produce is valuable, then you’re providing even more value by sharing it. I think the most important realization I had about marketing was this — if you have a product or service you truly believe in, then you’re actually doing people a disservice but not telling them about it. Think about that. By NOT marketing, you’re depriving people of value. If you aren’t eager to tell people about your site, perhaps it means you’re not offering something you believe in strongly enough. This simple idea contributed to my decision to retire from active shareware development and start this personal development site. I have no qualms about promoting this site because I believe in its value. I don’t feel embarrassed or apologetic when I tell people about it. If you’re providing real value, then your marketing is doing people a favor as opposed to asking for a favor. I wrote more about this philosophy in the article Marketing From Your Conscience. I think a failure to do marketing for an online business is a form of self-sabotage. If you learn about a fantastic new web site, do you tell other people about it? Of course. Is your web site worth telling people about? If you don’t believe it is, you’re likely to avoid marketing it. Somehow you’ll just never seem to get around to doing any significant marketing work. If you want to build a sustainable online business, focus most of your energies on providing value and on communicating that value. If you get those two things right (and it’s going to take longer than six months to make a real dent), you’ll be more driven to do everything else right. Now for a good way to actually build a successful online business, read Build Your Own Successful Online Business.
    798 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Darren Rowse of Problogger.net recently posted a case study of a blogger who decided to quit blogging after six months due to poor financial results: Blog Case Study – Is it time to Quit? Darren’s post is a great read for anyone who runs an online business, not just for bloggers. Interestingly, the points Darren raises in his post are similar to those from an article I wrote in 2002 called “Shareware Amateurs vs. Shareware Professionals.” The blogging “mistakes” Darren notes are common to other online businesses. Three of the most frequent mistakes I’ve seen include: 1. Thinking too short-term The blogger that Darren mentions gave up after only six months. Many shareware developers give up when their first product isn’t a hit. I’ll tell you that if you can achieve financial success with a one-person, shoestring budget business in only six months, you’re probably superhuman. My first four shareware games were all relative flops — it wasn’t until my fifth release that I was able to produce enough income to live off. When I think about the personal development business I’m building, six months is nothing. I’ve been at it for 10 months full-time now, and while I’ve made a reasonable dent in my long-term goals, this business is clearly still an infant. But to me that’s perfectly fine and well within my expectations. This business may be an infant, but it’s a healthy infant who will grow up big and strong. Building a business is a lot like raising a child. It takes time and patience. If you’re going to start a business and you’re only willing to give it six months to prove itself, don’t start a business. That probably isn’t even enough time for a franchise. Would you throw out your child because it can’t fend for itself six months out of the womb? I make most of my business decisions within a working time frame of 2-5 years… and for the big decisions with far-ranging consequences, I’m thinking 10-20 years out. This is just like the parent who starts saving for their child’s college education before the child can even read and write. If you want to start a real business and not just a hobby, think long-term. 2. Failure to optimize An online business will have processes that get executed over and over. Some of these are human processes, but many are executed by technology, and in my opinion, it’s the technological processes that are the most important for an online business. Whenever someone loads up your home page in their web browser, that’s a process being executed. Reading a blog entry is a process. Clicking an ad is a process. Finding the site is a process. Due to the sheer volume of processes an online business executes every day as well as their incredible interconnectedness, it isn’t hard to achieve tremendous performance gains through process optimization. A 10% improvement here, 15% there, 8% there, and pretty soon it begins to add up. As I’m sure some people will recognize, this was the basis of W.E. Deming’s work with the Japanese after WWII. If you can measure it, you can improve it. If you generate income from Google Adsense, for example, there are plenty of web sites that provide practical optimization tips. Just do a Google search on “adsense optimization” and similar search terms, and you’ll find plenty. By gradually applying Adsense optimization tips easily found on the web, I was able to permanently increase this site’s CPM (i.e. revenue per 1000 page views) by 68%. However, by performing other optimizations (search engine optimization, marketing improvements, posting changes, site tweaks, etc.), I was able to increase this site’s daily Adsense revenue by about 500% in five months. Most of these changes took only minutes to implement, like adding RSS subscription buttons to the sidebar or changing the ad colors. If I’d never made these optimizations, it would mean permanently lower revenue, which would mean much slower growth for this business and more problems for me. Optimization is generally one of the easiest ways to increase revenue for an online business. Even just one hour spent on intelligent optimization can generate enormous payoffs down the road. 3. Failure to market effectively How many blogs receive dismal traffic because all the owner does is write posts? I think that if you dare to be an entrepreneur, you need to learn marketing or have someone in your business who’s skilled at marketing. While you can outsource a lot of different business tasks, I don’t think the core marketing of your business should be one of them. I never had any formal marketing education (my college degrees are in computer science and mathematics), but when I started my shareware business, I discovered I needed to learn marketing. In addition to reading marketing books and learning from others, I bought audio recordings of several marketing seminars. It took me a full 18 months to get through them (it was about 100 audio tapes total), but by the time I was done, I had a strong understanding of marketing and plenty of ideas for promoting my business. Marketing doesn’t mean buying advertising, which is arguably the most expensive and least effective form of marketing. I haven’t spent a dime marketing this site, but I have done a lot of marketing work for it. Marketing is really just getting the word out. Don’t keep your site a secret — let as many people know about it as possible. Post comments liberally on other blogs, write articles and allow other sites to use them, swap links with bloggers in the same field, make search-engine friendly pages, and so on. If the content you produce is valuable, then you’re providing even more value by sharing it. I think the most important realization I had about marketing was this — if you have a product or service you truly believe in, then you’re actually doing people a disservice but not telling them about it. Think about that. By NOT marketing, you’re depriving people of value. If you aren’t eager to tell people about your site, perhaps it means you’re not offering something you believe in strongly enough. This simple idea contributed to my decision to retire from active shareware development and start this personal development site. I have no qualms about promoting this site because I believe in its value. I don’t feel embarrassed or apologetic when I tell people about it. If you’re providing real value, then your marketing is doing people a favor as opposed to asking for a favor. I wrote more about this philosophy in the article Marketing From Your Conscience. I think a failure to do marketing for an online business is a form of self-sabotage. If you learn about a fantastic new web site, do you tell other people about it? Of course. Is your web site worth telling people about? If you don’t believe it is, you’re likely to avoid marketing it. Somehow you’ll just never seem to get around to doing any significant marketing work. If you want to build a sustainable online business, focus most of your energies on providing value and on communicating that value. If you get those two things right (and it’s going to take longer than six months to make a real dent), you’ll be more driven to do everything else right. Now for a good way to actually build a successful online business, read Build Your Own Successful Online Business.
    Jul 12, 2011 798
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Many years ago I was listening to one of Brian Tracy’s audio programs where he recommended getting involved with some kind of trade organization, so you could surround yourself with potential mentors. He went on to tell his story of getting involved with his local Chamber of Commerce and how massively it catapulted him forward in business. And upon hearing such advice, I prompty ignored it. For years. Then eventually I hit a point where I asked myself, “What if some of those people making those personal development tapes are right, but I just can’t see the truth of what they’re saying? What if I just blindly applied some of their ideas, even if I can’t see it making much difference? Maybe those ideas really do work, but it’s one of those things where you can’t understand it from the outside looking in….” I figured… hey, Brian Tracy is a millionaire. I’m not. Maybe he knows something I don’t. He gave a lot of credit to the idea of getting involved, so maybe I should try putting my doubts on hold and taking his advice. Maybe I’m right and it won’t work. But what if he’s right and it does work? Worst case I waste a lot of time and maybe make a fool of myself. Best case looks pretty darn good though. So in mid-1999, I took a leap of faith and decided to apply this piece of advice and get involved in some kind of organization. I thought a good place to start would be with the Association of Shareware Professionals. The ASP is a nonprofit trade organization of around 1500 independent software developers, so it directly related to my software business. I’d been an ASP member since 1996, but all I did with my membership was receive the monthly newsletter. I was a completely passive member. I didn’t expect that getting more involved was actually going to do anything for me, but I decided to dive right in and give it a go anyway. Brian Tracy’s advice was to focus on giving, giving, giving. He said to volunteer for committees and officer positions and do your work in an excellent fashion. He said you’d find the very best people in the organization in top leadership roles, and by working with them, you’d have access to them and the ability to learn a great deal from them. Plus he also addressed the benefits of networking, but that didn’t seem like a big deal to me because I didn’t expect to sell more games to fellow software developers. At the time I was making only $300/month from shareware with four products… not terribly impressive considering there were people in the ASP bringing in six figures a year with one product. I couldn’t compete with that, but I did have the ability to volunteer and give something of value. I dove into the members-only ASP newsgroups, introduced myself, and began participating regularly in discussions. I remained on the lookout for ways to become more involved. As it turned out, there was an upcoming mid-term board member election for a newly vacant board seat (synchronicity?), so I decided to run for that open seat on the board. That was a bit pretentious of me because no one really knew who I was — I’d just popped in from out of nowhere. So it was three well-known ASP members and some stranger running for that board seat. But I think I did a good job of communicating my desire and enthusiasm to contribute, since I ended up coming in second out of four candidates, losing by only four votes. At the time I figured, well, I have a fair chance of getting elected to the board at the end-of-year elections once people get a chance to know me. I guess my enthusiasm impressed the board though, since shortly after that first election, they contacted me and asked me if I wanted to be Vice President, since the current VP was resigning. I accepted eagerly. The VP and other officers were appointed by the board, so I didn’t have to run for any kind of election to get the job. If I recall correctly, the total amount of time between making the decision to get involved in the ASP and becoming Vice President was on the order of 30 days or so. Isn’t it amazing how a clear, committed goal often can sometimes carve out its own path to realization? I just wanted to get involved, and suddenly I was VP. My head was spinning at how the universe seemed to conspire to make it happen. But I resolved to do my best, and I worked very hard while VP, trying to do a lot more than the duties of that position called for. After serving a year as VP, I was appointed by the board to be the next ASP President, which technically also made me the CEO of the ASP nonprofit corporation. I’m pretty sure I was the youngest President the ASP ever had (I was 29 at the time), but I can’t be certain because I haven’t met all the past Presidents. This was by no means an easy job, and knowing what I know today, I would have done things differently. But it’s nice to look back and see that some things I did back then are still around today. For example, the main body of text I wrote for the ASP home page is still substantially there. Because of the time commitment to serve as a volunteer (none of these positions were paid), I actually ended up spending less time on my own business. And yet, about six months after becoming VP, my shareware sales had increased by a factor of 10, and things only got better from there. It’s unfathomable just how radically I changed my entire business from top to bottom based on the ideas and attitudes I picked up from ASP members. Looking back, I really had very little chance of succeeding without the ASP. Donating significant time and energy to the ASP actually made me feel more deserving of success. Whenever I figured out something that I felt could benefit others, I’d communicate it through articles or newsgroup postings. I never felt like anyone’s competitor. I think subconsciously then, I felt that if I made my own business more successful, it would benefit a lot more people beyond just me and my family. I found this very motivating, and that kind of attitude has been with me ever since. Brian Tracy was right. Now I wish I’d taken his advice the first time I heard it. I’ve certainly become more open to taking advice from people who appear to be getting much better results than me in some area, even when I initially think the advice sounds stupid. Maybe they know something I don’t…. I’ve frequently seen in my life that when I focus on getting, I find myself surrounded by scarcity. But when I focus on giving, somehow there always seems to be abundance. That’s one reason that when I started this personal development site, I didn’t worry about making money from it. I put all my up-front energy into trying to provide something of value — for free. I also joined Toastmasters, and just like in the ASP, I became a club officer about a month after joining. As stupid a business model as this may sound to some people (working for months to create content and then give it all away for free), it’s mysteriously working, just as it did in the past. So many resources have fallen into my lap from out of nowhere over the past several months that I’d have to be a complete idiot not to be able to turn this operation into a financial success. In strange ways I’m already being paid for the work I’m doing, but mostly not with cash just yet. At the Shareware Industry Conference last month, I was inducted into the ASP Hall of Fame, which includes a free lifetime membership to the organization (it’s normally $100/year). I was honored to receive this award, especially since the ASP has done so much for me over the years. Even though I’m running a different kind of business today, I’m still applying the knowledge I learned as an ASP member. In one sense I’m applying the try-before-you-buy model to information instead of software. If you want to advance in your career or business, get involved with an appropriate trade organization, and volunteer until it hurts. And if you think it won’t make a difference, just do it anyway. Maybe I know something you don’t…
    1295 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Many years ago I was listening to one of Brian Tracy’s audio programs where he recommended getting involved with some kind of trade organization, so you could surround yourself with potential mentors. He went on to tell his story of getting involved with his local Chamber of Commerce and how massively it catapulted him forward in business. And upon hearing such advice, I prompty ignored it. For years. Then eventually I hit a point where I asked myself, “What if some of those people making those personal development tapes are right, but I just can’t see the truth of what they’re saying? What if I just blindly applied some of their ideas, even if I can’t see it making much difference? Maybe those ideas really do work, but it’s one of those things where you can’t understand it from the outside looking in….” I figured… hey, Brian Tracy is a millionaire. I’m not. Maybe he knows something I don’t. He gave a lot of credit to the idea of getting involved, so maybe I should try putting my doubts on hold and taking his advice. Maybe I’m right and it won’t work. But what if he’s right and it does work? Worst case I waste a lot of time and maybe make a fool of myself. Best case looks pretty darn good though. So in mid-1999, I took a leap of faith and decided to apply this piece of advice and get involved in some kind of organization. I thought a good place to start would be with the Association of Shareware Professionals. The ASP is a nonprofit trade organization of around 1500 independent software developers, so it directly related to my software business. I’d been an ASP member since 1996, but all I did with my membership was receive the monthly newsletter. I was a completely passive member. I didn’t expect that getting more involved was actually going to do anything for me, but I decided to dive right in and give it a go anyway. Brian Tracy’s advice was to focus on giving, giving, giving. He said to volunteer for committees and officer positions and do your work in an excellent fashion. He said you’d find the very best people in the organization in top leadership roles, and by working with them, you’d have access to them and the ability to learn a great deal from them. Plus he also addressed the benefits of networking, but that didn’t seem like a big deal to me because I didn’t expect to sell more games to fellow software developers. At the time I was making only $300/month from shareware with four products… not terribly impressive considering there were people in the ASP bringing in six figures a year with one product. I couldn’t compete with that, but I did have the ability to volunteer and give something of value. I dove into the members-only ASP newsgroups, introduced myself, and began participating regularly in discussions. I remained on the lookout for ways to become more involved. As it turned out, there was an upcoming mid-term board member election for a newly vacant board seat (synchronicity?), so I decided to run for that open seat on the board. That was a bit pretentious of me because no one really knew who I was — I’d just popped in from out of nowhere. So it was three well-known ASP members and some stranger running for that board seat. But I think I did a good job of communicating my desire and enthusiasm to contribute, since I ended up coming in second out of four candidates, losing by only four votes. At the time I figured, well, I have a fair chance of getting elected to the board at the end-of-year elections once people get a chance to know me. I guess my enthusiasm impressed the board though, since shortly after that first election, they contacted me and asked me if I wanted to be Vice President, since the current VP was resigning. I accepted eagerly. The VP and other officers were appointed by the board, so I didn’t have to run for any kind of election to get the job. If I recall correctly, the total amount of time between making the decision to get involved in the ASP and becoming Vice President was on the order of 30 days or so. Isn’t it amazing how a clear, committed goal often can sometimes carve out its own path to realization? I just wanted to get involved, and suddenly I was VP. My head was spinning at how the universe seemed to conspire to make it happen. But I resolved to do my best, and I worked very hard while VP, trying to do a lot more than the duties of that position called for. After serving a year as VP, I was appointed by the board to be the next ASP President, which technically also made me the CEO of the ASP nonprofit corporation. I’m pretty sure I was the youngest President the ASP ever had (I was 29 at the time), but I can’t be certain because I haven’t met all the past Presidents. This was by no means an easy job, and knowing what I know today, I would have done things differently. But it’s nice to look back and see that some things I did back then are still around today. For example, the main body of text I wrote for the ASP home page is still substantially there. Because of the time commitment to serve as a volunteer (none of these positions were paid), I actually ended up spending less time on my own business. And yet, about six months after becoming VP, my shareware sales had increased by a factor of 10, and things only got better from there. It’s unfathomable just how radically I changed my entire business from top to bottom based on the ideas and attitudes I picked up from ASP members. Looking back, I really had very little chance of succeeding without the ASP. Donating significant time and energy to the ASP actually made me feel more deserving of success. Whenever I figured out something that I felt could benefit others, I’d communicate it through articles or newsgroup postings. I never felt like anyone’s competitor. I think subconsciously then, I felt that if I made my own business more successful, it would benefit a lot more people beyond just me and my family. I found this very motivating, and that kind of attitude has been with me ever since. Brian Tracy was right. Now I wish I’d taken his advice the first time I heard it. I’ve certainly become more open to taking advice from people who appear to be getting much better results than me in some area, even when I initially think the advice sounds stupid. Maybe they know something I don’t…. I’ve frequently seen in my life that when I focus on getting, I find myself surrounded by scarcity. But when I focus on giving, somehow there always seems to be abundance. That’s one reason that when I started this personal development site, I didn’t worry about making money from it. I put all my up-front energy into trying to provide something of value — for free. I also joined Toastmasters, and just like in the ASP, I became a club officer about a month after joining. As stupid a business model as this may sound to some people (working for months to create content and then give it all away for free), it’s mysteriously working, just as it did in the past. So many resources have fallen into my lap from out of nowhere over the past several months that I’d have to be a complete idiot not to be able to turn this operation into a financial success. In strange ways I’m already being paid for the work I’m doing, but mostly not with cash just yet. At the Shareware Industry Conference last month, I was inducted into the ASP Hall of Fame, which includes a free lifetime membership to the organization (it’s normally $100/year). I was honored to receive this award, especially since the ASP has done so much for me over the years. Even though I’m running a different kind of business today, I’m still applying the knowledge I learned as an ASP member. In one sense I’m applying the try-before-you-buy model to information instead of software. If you want to advance in your career or business, get involved with an appropriate trade organization, and volunteer until it hurts. And if you think it won’t make a difference, just do it anyway. Maybe I know something you don’t…
    Jul 12, 2011 1295
  • 12 Jul 2011
    If you found yourself unemployed today, would you want the job you have now? Would you be eager to apply for it? What about your career as a whole? If you’d never worked in your current industry, would you consciously choose to work in it now? Many people just fall into their current line of work without ever consciously choosing it. For example, I fell into computer programming early in life. I took a BASIC programming class when I was 10 years old, and I loved it. From there it was a gradual progression to a double-major in computer science and math. My father was an aerospace engineer, and my mother was a college math professor, so there was certainly no family resistance to this path. I don’t ever recall seriously considering any other majors. Perhaps I was just destined to be a computer programmer. It wasn’t destiny though. It was merely momentum. There was very little conscious choice along this path. For the most part it was the path of least resistance. But the path of least resistance is usually not the path of best results, despite the musings of spiritual gurus who try desperately to paint it as such. Just because unconscious physical objects follow the path of least resistance doesn’t make it the correct choice for conscious human beings. Your consciousness gives you the option of choosing a path where you will meet resistance and then overcoming that resistance. You can take the path of least resistance and avoid obstacles, or you can choose to work against resistance and grow stronger. In terms of career choices, you aren’t limited to doing what you’ve been doing all along just because it’s convenient for you. You also have the option of doing something entirely different. Even if you don’t possess the skills to qualify to do something else, you do have the option of acquiring those skills. People are often held back by focusing too heavily on the effort it would take to develop new skills. People say, “It would take me five years just to reach the same level in a new career that I’m at now!” And you know what… that may well be true. But the time it takes you is of no consequence. Those five years are going to pass anyway. You can spend them in your current career, or you can invest them in transitioning to a new career. It’s merely a matter of substituting one version of those five years for another. Which version would put you in a better situation five years hence? When I wanted to move away from computer game development and towards working in the field of personal development, I had to deal with these same mental barriers. I thought to myself, “But I’m already very good at what I do. My position is safe and secure. How can I just abandon all I’ve worked for and start over with something new? I can’t just get up on a stage and start making a living as a professional speaker. My speaking skills aren’t good enough, and I know next to nothing about the speaking business. If I even attempt such a big change, my income is certain to go down in the beginning. It’s going to take me years to build the skills, credibility, and content just to reach the same level in that profession that I’m at now with my game business. That’s crazy. Why should I even start?” But the idea that the time is going to pass anyway really got to me. I framed it as a choice between spending the next five years one way and spending them another way. The past was the past, and the momentum that it produced up to this point was irrelevant. What mattered was the choice in front of me. I could form a pretty clear picture of what the next five years running my games business would be like. And I could also get a general idea of what the next five years starting a new personal development business would be like. Even though the day-by-day details would be impossible to predict, the bigger parts were predictable enough. On the games path, I’d continue publishing games. Duh. It wasn’t hard to get a sense of where I’d end up in five more years. And on the personal development path, I’d be writing and speaking and producing info products, but this would require a lot of time up front working for very little income. It also wasn’t hard to get a feel for what the resulting business might look like in five years. When I asked myself which five-year outcome I preferred, it was the personal development business. That probably doesn’t surprise you, nor did it surprise me. But what did surprise me was that I also could imagine that the way I’d be spending those next five years was more appealing on the personal development path. I not only wanted the outcome more, but upon reflection I concluded that I’d probably enjoy the path more as well. It would be challenging, and I’d have to take an income hit initially, but I was OK with that. I think what I found most attractive was that I was going to grow and learn much more on the personal development path vs. the games path. It seemed more adventurous and exciting to me. Separate the question of what you want from the question of what you think you can get. Five years is a long time. You can qualify for almost any profession within that time, even if you’re starting from scratch today. At the very least, you can get close. You might not be able to apply for a neurosurgical position, but you can work in the field of medicine within that time. I accepted that maybe I can’t go from game publisher to professional speaker at the same level of income in only one year, at least not without taking some very big risks, getting unusually lucky, and probably doing a very mediocre job on stage. But within a five-year period, I can develop a high degree of proficiency in speaking, build an abundance of great content, release a number of products, establish credibility, and produce a strong income if I work hard at it. I’ve been at it for 10.5 months now, and if I just keep making progress at roughly the same rate, I should have all those basic dots connected within the next few years. And if an unexpected stroke of genius or luck hits me between now and then, it will happen faster. If you find yourself in a job or career you wouldn’t consciously choose today, the first step is to admit that to yourself. The next step is to choose something else you’d like to move towards. And your new choice doesn’t even have to be the absolute best — it just has to be something you reasonably believe to be a better fit for you, a career you would choose consciously. Then just accept that if you want to switch careers, maybe it’s going to take some time. Maybe it will take five years, perhaps even longer. But then again it may not take as long as you think. You may be surprised to discover that skills from your current career can help accelerate your new career. For example, not many professional speakers understand Internet marketing, blogging, or search engine optimization nearly as well as I do — in fact, it’s fair to say that most are utterly clueless when it comes to the web. So I can leverage my web skills to rapidly and cheaply do things that are very time-consuming, costly, and confusing for other speakers, like building a high-traffic web site or selling downloadable products. You won’t find any flash intros here…. I think you may find that even if you switch from law to acting, there will still be a significant overlap which puts you ahead of the game in your new career. For example, you might be a better negotiator, and you might even make some money on the side helping fellow newbie actors with their contracts. At the very least, being more mature and experienced can give you an edge. Take some time to imagine what those next five years might be like if you were to transition to a new career. How could your existing experience become an asset to you? Could you make it OK to live on less money in the beginning? Could you see those lean years as part of a wonderful adventure instead of an unbearable setback? What interesting new friends might you make along the way? What new experiences might you enjoy? What good could you do for yourself and others? Can you see yourself bounding out of bed each morning instead of hitting the snooze button? I’m only 10.5 months along this path, so I can’t tell you what it’s like at 5 years out yet, but I can share what it’s like to get this far. Honestly, it’s wonderful. You’d think that the first year of transition would be the hardest, but it only looks hard from a very superficial standpoint. Sure I had to make some sacrifices. I’ve given up a lot of income I could easily have made if I kept working on my games business full-time, my aging car just passed 150,000 miles, and I’ve devoted months to writing and speaking for free. While this seemed like it would be tough to handle from the outside looking in, surprisingly it hasn’t been tough at all. It actually seems to be a lot tougher on the people watching me do it than it is for me. I’ve been enjoying the path tremendously, and progress has been more rapid than expected. When I first got started, I felt like I needed to work hard to get through the difficult transition period as quickly as possible, so I could reach the point where I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. But what actually happened was that after a few months, I came to see that the tunnel itself was already very well lit. I didn’t need to rush to emerge in some future place because the present moment was perfect as it was. So I dropped the tunnel metaphor and decided that the present moment was the place to be. What I mean by this is that instead of seeing the transition period as a grueling trial to be endured, I experience each day as something to be savored. I derive so much intrinsic pleasure from the work itself that future rewards are almost non-entities. I don’t need to see some whoppingly big financial reward after five years to verify that this was the right decision. Even though the total amount of money I’ve made in this new business so far can’t even match a good week of sales from my games business, I feel a lot wealthier now than I did when my income was higher. I think that as I continue working in this state of mind, it’s only a matter of time before the external world catches up. I think the whole income issue (how will I feed myself and my family?) is one that keeps a lot of people stuck in jobs that are wrong for them, particularly men who take pride in their role as breadwinners. But think about what that money is buying you. If you had the choice to buy or not buy that life again, would you make the same choice? Is your life paying wonderful dividends right now, or are you waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel when you can really start “living?” Where are you right now — the light or the tunnel?
    744 Posted by UniqueThis
  • If you found yourself unemployed today, would you want the job you have now? Would you be eager to apply for it? What about your career as a whole? If you’d never worked in your current industry, would you consciously choose to work in it now? Many people just fall into their current line of work without ever consciously choosing it. For example, I fell into computer programming early in life. I took a BASIC programming class when I was 10 years old, and I loved it. From there it was a gradual progression to a double-major in computer science and math. My father was an aerospace engineer, and my mother was a college math professor, so there was certainly no family resistance to this path. I don’t ever recall seriously considering any other majors. Perhaps I was just destined to be a computer programmer. It wasn’t destiny though. It was merely momentum. There was very little conscious choice along this path. For the most part it was the path of least resistance. But the path of least resistance is usually not the path of best results, despite the musings of spiritual gurus who try desperately to paint it as such. Just because unconscious physical objects follow the path of least resistance doesn’t make it the correct choice for conscious human beings. Your consciousness gives you the option of choosing a path where you will meet resistance and then overcoming that resistance. You can take the path of least resistance and avoid obstacles, or you can choose to work against resistance and grow stronger. In terms of career choices, you aren’t limited to doing what you’ve been doing all along just because it’s convenient for you. You also have the option of doing something entirely different. Even if you don’t possess the skills to qualify to do something else, you do have the option of acquiring those skills. People are often held back by focusing too heavily on the effort it would take to develop new skills. People say, “It would take me five years just to reach the same level in a new career that I’m at now!” And you know what… that may well be true. But the time it takes you is of no consequence. Those five years are going to pass anyway. You can spend them in your current career, or you can invest them in transitioning to a new career. It’s merely a matter of substituting one version of those five years for another. Which version would put you in a better situation five years hence? When I wanted to move away from computer game development and towards working in the field of personal development, I had to deal with these same mental barriers. I thought to myself, “But I’m already very good at what I do. My position is safe and secure. How can I just abandon all I’ve worked for and start over with something new? I can’t just get up on a stage and start making a living as a professional speaker. My speaking skills aren’t good enough, and I know next to nothing about the speaking business. If I even attempt such a big change, my income is certain to go down in the beginning. It’s going to take me years to build the skills, credibility, and content just to reach the same level in that profession that I’m at now with my game business. That’s crazy. Why should I even start?” But the idea that the time is going to pass anyway really got to me. I framed it as a choice between spending the next five years one way and spending them another way. The past was the past, and the momentum that it produced up to this point was irrelevant. What mattered was the choice in front of me. I could form a pretty clear picture of what the next five years running my games business would be like. And I could also get a general idea of what the next five years starting a new personal development business would be like. Even though the day-by-day details would be impossible to predict, the bigger parts were predictable enough. On the games path, I’d continue publishing games. Duh. It wasn’t hard to get a sense of where I’d end up in five more years. And on the personal development path, I’d be writing and speaking and producing info products, but this would require a lot of time up front working for very little income. It also wasn’t hard to get a feel for what the resulting business might look like in five years. When I asked myself which five-year outcome I preferred, it was the personal development business. That probably doesn’t surprise you, nor did it surprise me. But what did surprise me was that I also could imagine that the way I’d be spending those next five years was more appealing on the personal development path. I not only wanted the outcome more, but upon reflection I concluded that I’d probably enjoy the path more as well. It would be challenging, and I’d have to take an income hit initially, but I was OK with that. I think what I found most attractive was that I was going to grow and learn much more on the personal development path vs. the games path. It seemed more adventurous and exciting to me. Separate the question of what you want from the question of what you think you can get. Five years is a long time. You can qualify for almost any profession within that time, even if you’re starting from scratch today. At the very least, you can get close. You might not be able to apply for a neurosurgical position, but you can work in the field of medicine within that time. I accepted that maybe I can’t go from game publisher to professional speaker at the same level of income in only one year, at least not without taking some very big risks, getting unusually lucky, and probably doing a very mediocre job on stage. But within a five-year period, I can develop a high degree of proficiency in speaking, build an abundance of great content, release a number of products, establish credibility, and produce a strong income if I work hard at it. I’ve been at it for 10.5 months now, and if I just keep making progress at roughly the same rate, I should have all those basic dots connected within the next few years. And if an unexpected stroke of genius or luck hits me between now and then, it will happen faster. If you find yourself in a job or career you wouldn’t consciously choose today, the first step is to admit that to yourself. The next step is to choose something else you’d like to move towards. And your new choice doesn’t even have to be the absolute best — it just has to be something you reasonably believe to be a better fit for you, a career you would choose consciously. Then just accept that if you want to switch careers, maybe it’s going to take some time. Maybe it will take five years, perhaps even longer. But then again it may not take as long as you think. You may be surprised to discover that skills from your current career can help accelerate your new career. For example, not many professional speakers understand Internet marketing, blogging, or search engine optimization nearly as well as I do — in fact, it’s fair to say that most are utterly clueless when it comes to the web. So I can leverage my web skills to rapidly and cheaply do things that are very time-consuming, costly, and confusing for other speakers, like building a high-traffic web site or selling downloadable products. You won’t find any flash intros here…. I think you may find that even if you switch from law to acting, there will still be a significant overlap which puts you ahead of the game in your new career. For example, you might be a better negotiator, and you might even make some money on the side helping fellow newbie actors with their contracts. At the very least, being more mature and experienced can give you an edge. Take some time to imagine what those next five years might be like if you were to transition to a new career. How could your existing experience become an asset to you? Could you make it OK to live on less money in the beginning? Could you see those lean years as part of a wonderful adventure instead of an unbearable setback? What interesting new friends might you make along the way? What new experiences might you enjoy? What good could you do for yourself and others? Can you see yourself bounding out of bed each morning instead of hitting the snooze button? I’m only 10.5 months along this path, so I can’t tell you what it’s like at 5 years out yet, but I can share what it’s like to get this far. Honestly, it’s wonderful. You’d think that the first year of transition would be the hardest, but it only looks hard from a very superficial standpoint. Sure I had to make some sacrifices. I’ve given up a lot of income I could easily have made if I kept working on my games business full-time, my aging car just passed 150,000 miles, and I’ve devoted months to writing and speaking for free. While this seemed like it would be tough to handle from the outside looking in, surprisingly it hasn’t been tough at all. It actually seems to be a lot tougher on the people watching me do it than it is for me. I’ve been enjoying the path tremendously, and progress has been more rapid than expected. When I first got started, I felt like I needed to work hard to get through the difficult transition period as quickly as possible, so I could reach the point where I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. But what actually happened was that after a few months, I came to see that the tunnel itself was already very well lit. I didn’t need to rush to emerge in some future place because the present moment was perfect as it was. So I dropped the tunnel metaphor and decided that the present moment was the place to be. What I mean by this is that instead of seeing the transition period as a grueling trial to be endured, I experience each day as something to be savored. I derive so much intrinsic pleasure from the work itself that future rewards are almost non-entities. I don’t need to see some whoppingly big financial reward after five years to verify that this was the right decision. Even though the total amount of money I’ve made in this new business so far can’t even match a good week of sales from my games business, I feel a lot wealthier now than I did when my income was higher. I think that as I continue working in this state of mind, it’s only a matter of time before the external world catches up. I think the whole income issue (how will I feed myself and my family?) is one that keeps a lot of people stuck in jobs that are wrong for them, particularly men who take pride in their role as breadwinners. But think about what that money is buying you. If you had the choice to buy or not buy that life again, would you make the same choice? Is your life paying wonderful dividends right now, or are you waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel when you can really start “living?” Where are you right now — the light or the tunnel?
    Jul 12, 2011 744
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Have you heard the statistic that says, “80% of new businesses fail within the first five years?” That seems to be a favorite one for people to cite when attempting to discourage their friends or co-workers from starting a new business (with the best of intentions of course <- yes, this is sarcasm). Sometimes you’ll hear variations on this statistic like 75% or 90%. I heard another one that said that of the 20% of businesses that don’t fail within the first 5 years, 80% of those fail within the next 5 years. So that puts us down to only 4% that last 10+ years (20% x 20%). Now can anyone tell me what percentage of employees fail within the first five years? If you work at a job and get laid off after 4.5 years, would you qualify for this statistic? What if you quit? Left for a better job? Retired? Got a transfer? A promotion? If your job ends, does that mean you failed? And if a business “fails” to endure, does that mean the entrepreneur failed? Isn’t every business going to fail eventually? Even Microsoft? <- no, this is not sarcasm. If a business fails to endure, does that mean it could be considered a failure? Does “fail” mean that the business produced nothing of value or provided no revenue to the owner(s)? What if an employee is hired and then “fails” after a number of years? Does that mean s/he did nothing the whole time and shouldn’t have been hired in the first place? Of course not… Don’t let goofy statistics discourage you from going the entrepreneurial route if you find it attractive. While a business or a job may cease to endure after a certain number of years, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. You’re still going to learn and grow and create value along the way, regardless of the outcome. Just as a job can be a stepping stone, so can a business, and there’s no reason you can’t start a new business with the expectation that it’s only temporary. Jobs and businesses come and go. Your own personal growth is what endures. My first and only stint as an employee lasted six months. My first business lasted 11 years and is still going. Go figure.
    611 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Have you heard the statistic that says, “80% of new businesses fail within the first five years?” That seems to be a favorite one for people to cite when attempting to discourage their friends or co-workers from starting a new business (with the best of intentions of course <- yes, this is sarcasm). Sometimes you’ll hear variations on this statistic like 75% or 90%. I heard another one that said that of the 20% of businesses that don’t fail within the first 5 years, 80% of those fail within the next 5 years. So that puts us down to only 4% that last 10+ years (20% x 20%). Now can anyone tell me what percentage of employees fail within the first five years? If you work at a job and get laid off after 4.5 years, would you qualify for this statistic? What if you quit? Left for a better job? Retired? Got a transfer? A promotion? If your job ends, does that mean you failed? And if a business “fails” to endure, does that mean the entrepreneur failed? Isn’t every business going to fail eventually? Even Microsoft? <- no, this is not sarcasm. If a business fails to endure, does that mean it could be considered a failure? Does “fail” mean that the business produced nothing of value or provided no revenue to the owner(s)? What if an employee is hired and then “fails” after a number of years? Does that mean s/he did nothing the whole time and shouldn’t have been hired in the first place? Of course not… Don’t let goofy statistics discourage you from going the entrepreneurial route if you find it attractive. While a business or a job may cease to endure after a certain number of years, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. You’re still going to learn and grow and create value along the way, regardless of the outcome. Just as a job can be a stepping stone, so can a business, and there’s no reason you can’t start a new business with the expectation that it’s only temporary. Jobs and businesses come and go. Your own personal growth is what endures. My first and only stint as an employee lasted six months. My first business lasted 11 years and is still going. Go figure.
    Jul 12, 2011 611
  • 12 Jul 2011
    In this post we’re going to take a deep look into the concept of productivity. Here’s my personal definition of productivity: Productivity = Value / Time (productivity equals value divided by time) By this definition there are two primary ways of increasing productivity: 1) Increase the value created 2) Decrease the time required to create that value You can complicate this definition by including other factors like energy and resources, but I prefer the simplicity of time because in most cases factors like energy and resources are reducible to time anyway. Time also makes it very easy to compare different levels of productivity, such as output per hour or per day. Apparently you can make some significant gains on the time side. There are many personal productivity optimizations which, especially if you introduce them in your youth, will produce a massive net savings of time over the course of your life. Consider your typing speed, for instance. If you invest the time to get your speed up to 90 words per minute or faster, it will be well worth the initial time investment if you happen to do a lot of typing over your lifetime, compared to allowing your speed to linger at 50 wpm or slower year after year. The extra hours of practice will be nothing compared to the time you save typing emails, letters, or blog entries over the next few decades. Other time-based optimizations include improving your sleeping habits, minimizing commute time, or dropping time-wasting habits like smoking. The main limit of time-based optimizations is that the optimization process requires an input of time itself. It takes time to save time. So the more time you invest in optimizing time usage, the greater your initial time investment, and the greater your need for a long-term payoff to justify that investment. This limit creates an upper bound for any time-based optimizations you attempt, in accordance with the law of diminishing returns. The more time you invest in any optimization attempt, the lower your net return, all else being equal. This law of diminishing returns points us back to the value side. While we might be stuck with diminshing returns by trying to optimize the time side alone, we may notice that working to optimize the value side is less limiting and more open-ended. What is the “value” in our productivity equation? Value is a quality you must define for yourself. Hence, any definition of productity is relative to the definition of value. In circles where people can agree on a common definition of value, they can also agree on a common definition of productivity. However, in terms of your own personal productivity, you aren’t obligated to define value the same way anyone else would. You are free to adopt your own definition, such that your pursuit of greater productivity becomes a personal quest that produces the value that matters most to you. Too often we adopt a socially conditioned definition of value, which tends to be very limiting. Perhaps we define value in terms of work output within our career, number of tasks completed, number and quality of important projects finished, etc. You may not be able to verbalize it clearly, but perhaps you have a working definition of value that feels comfortable to you. You can tell when you’ve had a productive day and when you haven’t based on how much value you created, in accordance with your own sense of what value means. But how much conscious thought did you put into your personal definition of value? I’m going to challenge you to put a bit more thought into your definition, which will consequently redefine your sense of productivity. Impact First, according to your definition of value, to what extent is the value provided? Who receives the value? Yourself, your boss, your coworkers, your friends, your family, your company, your customers, your team, certain investors, your community, your country, the world, your family, God, all conscious beings, etc? What degree of value is ultimately received by each person or group? Are you providing value to one person, 10 people, 100 people, 1000 people, millions of people, the whole planet? How much do you feel the value you provide ripples outward beyond those you provide it to directly? How quickly do those ripples dissipate? What’s your sense of the basic level of impact of your value? Is it limited or expansive? For example, if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation or the leader of a country, you’ll have a far greater ability to provide value to large numbers of people vs. if you work as a janitor. The more people you can influence, the greater your potential value. Greater leverage means greater potential impact. Endurance Secondly, how long does the value you create endure? An hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime, 100 years, 1000 years, 10,000 years, until the end of time? To what extent does your value carry forward in time? Is it quickly consumed and forgotten? Or does it continue to regenerate itself year after year? Does your value create ripples through time? The Mona Lisa is still providing value hundreds of years after its creation. But other works of art do not provide any enduring value beyond the lifetime of the artist. They are quickly abandoned and eventually replaced. Essence Thirdly, what is the essence of the value you produce? Do you help people survive? Entertain them? Enlighten them? How much do others value what you produce? What price would they be willing to pay for it? Do they consider your value essential, optional, or undesirable? How unique is your value? Are you the only one who can provide it, or are there plenty of equivalent choices? The essence of value provided by a janitor is low because it is easy to find people to do such work for little pay. The essence of value of a physicist is potentially enormous because a new theoretical concept could yield a more accurate understanding of the universe. Volume Lastly, what is the volume of value you create? How much of it are you putting out in a given period of time? What is the quantity in which you produce that value? For example, Picasso was a prolific artist who created hundreds of different works over his lifetime. Other artists had a far lower volume of output. So now we have this little formula: Value = Impact x Endurance x Essence x Volume And therefore: Productivity = Impact x Endurance x Essence x Volume / Time Now what’s interesting here is that most of the productivity literature I’ve read focuses almost exclusively on volume and time. But those are the most limiting parts of this equation. However, they’re also the easiest to write about. I think the most important long-term factors to consider when optimizing productivity (whether that of an individual, corporation, country, or other entity) are impact, endurance, and essence. And the most important of these three is essence. For example, let’s consider the productivity of a blogger. The impact of a blogger’s value would be related to the blog’s traffic levels and overall influence among its readers. How many people are reading the blog, and how much do they value what the blogger writes? To improve impact a blogger could increase traffic to the blog or improve his/her writing skills in order to have a deeper effect on the readers. Impact can also be increased if the readers then go out and tell others about what they’ve read. Furthermore, the blogger could use the blog as a means for self-exploration, thereby increasing the impact of the blog on the blogger’s own life. The endurance of a blogger’s value would be the long-term effect on the blog’s readers, if any. Is the blog changing the long-term thinking and behavior patterns of its readers? Do the readers quickly forget what they read on the blog, or does the information stay with them? Are the readers permanently haunted by what they’ve read? The essence of a blogger’s value depends on the topics the blogger writes about. Is the blogger writing throw-away posts to get a laugh or generate traffic, or is there a serious commitment to providing deep value? What is the nature of the blogger’s value delivery? Is it financial advice that could help a person become wealthy? Does it provide solutions to important problems? Or is it mostly fluff? And of course the volume of a blogger’s value would be the quantity of words and posts the blogger delivers. Now extend this line of thinking to your life as a whole, well beyond the boundaries of your career. What is the ultimate impact of your life? How many lives are you touching? Are you a person of influence? Or do you exist in relative obscurity? What will be the endurance of your life’s value? Will your lifetime contributions turn out to be largely insignificant? Or will your contributions ripple on for centuries? What of your value will survive your own death? What of your value will you have the potential to retain after you die (assuming there is an afterlife of sorts)? And finally, what will be the essence of your life’s value? What is the heart of your contribution? Are you here to play follow the follower? Are you in pursuit of a worthwhile destiny? When you consciously consider the value you’re providing, do you feel empty and fearful or peaceful and fulfilled? What is the meaning behind your deeds? Was that meaning consciously chosen? You cannot optimize your productivity without consciously and deliberately optimizing these factors. True productivity is far more than volume / time. If you neglect the importance of impact, endurance, and essence, you doom yourself to the pursuit of spinning your wheels faster and faster and missing the whole point of life. And the worst part is that as you live, you will know this to be true. You will sense the hollowness and emptiness in all that you do. When you consider your output in light of the boundlessness of time and space, it becomes nothing. Essence is the single most important factor. Until you discover the true essence of your life, you can never really be productive. You can take for granted that any task you perform will have a nonzero impact, endurance, and volume. Those factors may be very small if the task is trivial, but they’ll be greater than zero. However, if the core essence of any task amounts to zero, then your total productivity is zero. If you miss the point of your life, your ultimate productivity is zero, no matter how hard you work and how well you attempt to optimize all the other factors. If you gain the whole world and lose your soul, your ultimate payoff is zero. That essence is your purpose. This is why it’s so important to discover your life’s purpose. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. In fact, the only truly productive task you can perform before you know your purpose is to work to discover what that purpose is. The pursuit of essence is essential if you wish to have a nonzero productivity. Once you discover your essence, you’ll find that all those other factors begin to optimize themselves very easily. Embracing essence creates passion, and passion increases impact, endurance, and volume. Passion also makes time seem to pass more slowly. Passion provides the energy and attracts the resources to manage time more efficiently. Passion allows you to see the present moment as inherently complete and perfect instead of perceiving life as incomplete and imperfect. The discovery of essence automatically optimizes productivity as a whole. Find a person who knows and embraces their life’s purpose, and you’ll find a truly productive person. But in the absence of purpose, you’ll find busy-ness, but never productivity — the volume of output created might as well be tossed on the trash heap. It will have no power to endure. Purpose is rooted in the permanent, the timeless, the unbounded. It is the essence of what is real. Purpose is conscious and alive. Outside of purpose you can work only with the temporary, the timebound, the limited — the ghost projections of reality but not reality itself. Be productive. Spend your time discovering your essence, and then devote the rest of your life to working from your essence. Then you will live and work with a sense of boundless productivity because essence itself is boundless.
    757 Posted by UniqueThis
  • In this post we’re going to take a deep look into the concept of productivity. Here’s my personal definition of productivity: Productivity = Value / Time (productivity equals value divided by time) By this definition there are two primary ways of increasing productivity: 1) Increase the value created 2) Decrease the time required to create that value You can complicate this definition by including other factors like energy and resources, but I prefer the simplicity of time because in most cases factors like energy and resources are reducible to time anyway. Time also makes it very easy to compare different levels of productivity, such as output per hour or per day. Apparently you can make some significant gains on the time side. There are many personal productivity optimizations which, especially if you introduce them in your youth, will produce a massive net savings of time over the course of your life. Consider your typing speed, for instance. If you invest the time to get your speed up to 90 words per minute or faster, it will be well worth the initial time investment if you happen to do a lot of typing over your lifetime, compared to allowing your speed to linger at 50 wpm or slower year after year. The extra hours of practice will be nothing compared to the time you save typing emails, letters, or blog entries over the next few decades. Other time-based optimizations include improving your sleeping habits, minimizing commute time, or dropping time-wasting habits like smoking. The main limit of time-based optimizations is that the optimization process requires an input of time itself. It takes time to save time. So the more time you invest in optimizing time usage, the greater your initial time investment, and the greater your need for a long-term payoff to justify that investment. This limit creates an upper bound for any time-based optimizations you attempt, in accordance with the law of diminishing returns. The more time you invest in any optimization attempt, the lower your net return, all else being equal. This law of diminishing returns points us back to the value side. While we might be stuck with diminshing returns by trying to optimize the time side alone, we may notice that working to optimize the value side is less limiting and more open-ended. What is the “value” in our productivity equation? Value is a quality you must define for yourself. Hence, any definition of productity is relative to the definition of value. In circles where people can agree on a common definition of value, they can also agree on a common definition of productivity. However, in terms of your own personal productivity, you aren’t obligated to define value the same way anyone else would. You are free to adopt your own definition, such that your pursuit of greater productivity becomes a personal quest that produces the value that matters most to you. Too often we adopt a socially conditioned definition of value, which tends to be very limiting. Perhaps we define value in terms of work output within our career, number of tasks completed, number and quality of important projects finished, etc. You may not be able to verbalize it clearly, but perhaps you have a working definition of value that feels comfortable to you. You can tell when you’ve had a productive day and when you haven’t based on how much value you created, in accordance with your own sense of what value means. But how much conscious thought did you put into your personal definition of value? I’m going to challenge you to put a bit more thought into your definition, which will consequently redefine your sense of productivity. Impact First, according to your definition of value, to what extent is the value provided? Who receives the value? Yourself, your boss, your coworkers, your friends, your family, your company, your customers, your team, certain investors, your community, your country, the world, your family, God, all conscious beings, etc? What degree of value is ultimately received by each person or group? Are you providing value to one person, 10 people, 100 people, 1000 people, millions of people, the whole planet? How much do you feel the value you provide ripples outward beyond those you provide it to directly? How quickly do those ripples dissipate? What’s your sense of the basic level of impact of your value? Is it limited or expansive? For example, if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation or the leader of a country, you’ll have a far greater ability to provide value to large numbers of people vs. if you work as a janitor. The more people you can influence, the greater your potential value. Greater leverage means greater potential impact. Endurance Secondly, how long does the value you create endure? An hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime, 100 years, 1000 years, 10,000 years, until the end of time? To what extent does your value carry forward in time? Is it quickly consumed and forgotten? Or does it continue to regenerate itself year after year? Does your value create ripples through time? The Mona Lisa is still providing value hundreds of years after its creation. But other works of art do not provide any enduring value beyond the lifetime of the artist. They are quickly abandoned and eventually replaced. Essence Thirdly, what is the essence of the value you produce? Do you help people survive? Entertain them? Enlighten them? How much do others value what you produce? What price would they be willing to pay for it? Do they consider your value essential, optional, or undesirable? How unique is your value? Are you the only one who can provide it, or are there plenty of equivalent choices? The essence of value provided by a janitor is low because it is easy to find people to do such work for little pay. The essence of value of a physicist is potentially enormous because a new theoretical concept could yield a more accurate understanding of the universe. Volume Lastly, what is the volume of value you create? How much of it are you putting out in a given period of time? What is the quantity in which you produce that value? For example, Picasso was a prolific artist who created hundreds of different works over his lifetime. Other artists had a far lower volume of output. So now we have this little formula: Value = Impact x Endurance x Essence x Volume And therefore: Productivity = Impact x Endurance x Essence x Volume / Time Now what’s interesting here is that most of the productivity literature I’ve read focuses almost exclusively on volume and time. But those are the most limiting parts of this equation. However, they’re also the easiest to write about. I think the most important long-term factors to consider when optimizing productivity (whether that of an individual, corporation, country, or other entity) are impact, endurance, and essence. And the most important of these three is essence. For example, let’s consider the productivity of a blogger. The impact of a blogger’s value would be related to the blog’s traffic levels and overall influence among its readers. How many people are reading the blog, and how much do they value what the blogger writes? To improve impact a blogger could increase traffic to the blog or improve his/her writing skills in order to have a deeper effect on the readers. Impact can also be increased if the readers then go out and tell others about what they’ve read. Furthermore, the blogger could use the blog as a means for self-exploration, thereby increasing the impact of the blog on the blogger’s own life. The endurance of a blogger’s value would be the long-term effect on the blog’s readers, if any. Is the blog changing the long-term thinking and behavior patterns of its readers? Do the readers quickly forget what they read on the blog, or does the information stay with them? Are the readers permanently haunted by what they’ve read? The essence of a blogger’s value depends on the topics the blogger writes about. Is the blogger writing throw-away posts to get a laugh or generate traffic, or is there a serious commitment to providing deep value? What is the nature of the blogger’s value delivery? Is it financial advice that could help a person become wealthy? Does it provide solutions to important problems? Or is it mostly fluff? And of course the volume of a blogger’s value would be the quantity of words and posts the blogger delivers. Now extend this line of thinking to your life as a whole, well beyond the boundaries of your career. What is the ultimate impact of your life? How many lives are you touching? Are you a person of influence? Or do you exist in relative obscurity? What will be the endurance of your life’s value? Will your lifetime contributions turn out to be largely insignificant? Or will your contributions ripple on for centuries? What of your value will survive your own death? What of your value will you have the potential to retain after you die (assuming there is an afterlife of sorts)? And finally, what will be the essence of your life’s value? What is the heart of your contribution? Are you here to play follow the follower? Are you in pursuit of a worthwhile destiny? When you consciously consider the value you’re providing, do you feel empty and fearful or peaceful and fulfilled? What is the meaning behind your deeds? Was that meaning consciously chosen? You cannot optimize your productivity without consciously and deliberately optimizing these factors. True productivity is far more than volume / time. If you neglect the importance of impact, endurance, and essence, you doom yourself to the pursuit of spinning your wheels faster and faster and missing the whole point of life. And the worst part is that as you live, you will know this to be true. You will sense the hollowness and emptiness in all that you do. When you consider your output in light of the boundlessness of time and space, it becomes nothing. Essence is the single most important factor. Until you discover the true essence of your life, you can never really be productive. You can take for granted that any task you perform will have a nonzero impact, endurance, and volume. Those factors may be very small if the task is trivial, but they’ll be greater than zero. However, if the core essence of any task amounts to zero, then your total productivity is zero. If you miss the point of your life, your ultimate productivity is zero, no matter how hard you work and how well you attempt to optimize all the other factors. If you gain the whole world and lose your soul, your ultimate payoff is zero. That essence is your purpose. This is why it’s so important to discover your life’s purpose. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. In fact, the only truly productive task you can perform before you know your purpose is to work to discover what that purpose is. The pursuit of essence is essential if you wish to have a nonzero productivity. Once you discover your essence, you’ll find that all those other factors begin to optimize themselves very easily. Embracing essence creates passion, and passion increases impact, endurance, and volume. Passion also makes time seem to pass more slowly. Passion provides the energy and attracts the resources to manage time more efficiently. Passion allows you to see the present moment as inherently complete and perfect instead of perceiving life as incomplete and imperfect. The discovery of essence automatically optimizes productivity as a whole. Find a person who knows and embraces their life’s purpose, and you’ll find a truly productive person. But in the absence of purpose, you’ll find busy-ness, but never productivity — the volume of output created might as well be tossed on the trash heap. It will have no power to endure. Purpose is rooted in the permanent, the timeless, the unbounded. It is the essence of what is real. Purpose is conscious and alive. Outside of purpose you can work only with the temporary, the timebound, the limited — the ghost projections of reality but not reality itself. Be productive. Spend your time discovering your essence, and then devote the rest of your life to working from your essence. Then you will live and work with a sense of boundless productivity because essence itself is boundless.
    Jul 12, 2011 757
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Well, that didn’t take long. Yesterday as I was typing up the Million Dollar Experiment (which I just posted this morning), I decided to try adding some Chitika eMiniMalls ads to the bottom of the sidebar. I just signed up with this ad service after hearing other bloggers speak highly of it — some bloggers say it generates even more revenue for them than Google Adsense, sometimes double or triple. Chitika displays ads for various products that you can buy online with a creative tabbed interface. You can see those ads right now on the sidebar on each page of this site (right below the Google ads). Since this isn’t a product or technology related site, the Chitika ads might not do as well here as they do on gadget sites, but they do seem to display some personal development products like motivational posters and relaxation machines, so who knows? Anyway, with respect to the experiment, when I checked my Chitika stats today I found I already earned a whopping $0.98. So there’s my first dollar from a new revenue stream. Plus it only took me a few minutes to implement it. With some tweaking and optimization, it might even become significant. The $0.98 was from just a fraction of a day of showing the ads. One $ down, $999,999 to go. My main concern with the Chitika eMiniMalls ads would be that they cannibalize revenue from the Google ads, so I’d just be shifting revenue from one source to another. I’m not sure whether I’ll formally count the Chitika stream towards the Million Dollar Experiment, but I think I’ll go ahead and do so, since from what others report it has the potential to generate extra revenue by generating clicks from people looking for products as opposed to information. Most of the Google ads seem to be for information sites. I’ve also received several new inquiries today that could lead to some new revenue sources. In particular, a number of individual advertisers have contacted me about buying ads on certain pages of this site. I can’t see that any of these would produce anywhere near $1 million, but it’s a start. I know some people don’t want this site to be full of ads, but the ad revenue makes it easier for me to pump out a lot of content and give it away for free. I also like that the ads are at least relevant to the content and can make people aware of even more personal development material. Sometimes the ads make me laugh as well, like the ones that tell me I can “buy spirituality on ebay.” By the way, if you want to add Chitika eMiniMalls ads to your own web site or blog, I say give it a try. It might flop, but it could do very well. It only takes minutes to setup an account and generate the code, so the risk is negligible. Chitika pays you monthly via Paypal (or check) 60% of whatever they earn from the advertisers. Plus you can combine Chitika ads with Adsense ads on the same pages, as long as you display the Chitika ads in non-contextual mode. You basically just provide some keywords, so the ads will still be semi-targeted. This is especially great if you have a themed site or blog with consistent content on a particular topic. If you’d like to use my affiliate link to sign up with Chitika yourself, then just click the banner below. You still get the same amount of money either way, but if you use my link, I earn an extra 10% as well, so you’ll also be contributing to the Million Dollar Experiment. Here’s the link: Chitika eMiniMalls referral link In other news I learned today that this blog now has a Google page rank of 7, so it recently moved up from a rank of 6. I’ve been seeing search traffic to the blog increase dramatically over the past few months. Last month it received traffic from over 14,000 different search terms. Also, this blog’s Technorati rank increased from #420 to #393 over the past few days, so now it’s crept into the top 400 (out of 20.5 million blogs). I’d love to see this blog reach the top 100. I’d say it definitely has a shot. It’s funny that when I started this personal development site in October 2004, I used to get frequent emails from people who knew me from the computer gaming industry telling me it was a stupid idea and that I had nothing new to offer and that I was making a big mistake and should stick with doing games. It was like being excommunicated, as if I’d committed a grave sin by abandoning the gaming industry. I think it especially offended certain people that I chose to blog about personal development instead of game development. I just ignored those emails though, since they had nothing to do with me — they were all about the other person’s attachments to a false sense of who I was. I don’t get emails like that anymore though. I often say to people that when you make a big change in your life, it takes the rest of the world about two years to catch up with your new self image, including family and friends. If this Million Dollar Experiment succeeds, I imagine there will be some people in my life who have a really hard time accepting it. Imagine how the people around you would react if you had a million extra dollars you didn’t even need. I already see a bit of that reaction with my abundance of time freedom. The whole concept of abundance tends to rub scarcity-minded people the wrong way, as if it’s a threat to their sense of security. I personally believe this experiment will succeed. I already feel a certain sense of energy about it after focusing my intention to kick it off.
    817 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Well, that didn’t take long. Yesterday as I was typing up the Million Dollar Experiment (which I just posted this morning), I decided to try adding some Chitika eMiniMalls ads to the bottom of the sidebar. I just signed up with this ad service after hearing other bloggers speak highly of it — some bloggers say it generates even more revenue for them than Google Adsense, sometimes double or triple. Chitika displays ads for various products that you can buy online with a creative tabbed interface. You can see those ads right now on the sidebar on each page of this site (right below the Google ads). Since this isn’t a product or technology related site, the Chitika ads might not do as well here as they do on gadget sites, but they do seem to display some personal development products like motivational posters and relaxation machines, so who knows? Anyway, with respect to the experiment, when I checked my Chitika stats today I found I already earned a whopping $0.98. So there’s my first dollar from a new revenue stream. Plus it only took me a few minutes to implement it. With some tweaking and optimization, it might even become significant. The $0.98 was from just a fraction of a day of showing the ads. One $ down, $999,999 to go. My main concern with the Chitika eMiniMalls ads would be that they cannibalize revenue from the Google ads, so I’d just be shifting revenue from one source to another. I’m not sure whether I’ll formally count the Chitika stream towards the Million Dollar Experiment, but I think I’ll go ahead and do so, since from what others report it has the potential to generate extra revenue by generating clicks from people looking for products as opposed to information. Most of the Google ads seem to be for information sites. I’ve also received several new inquiries today that could lead to some new revenue sources. In particular, a number of individual advertisers have contacted me about buying ads on certain pages of this site. I can’t see that any of these would produce anywhere near $1 million, but it’s a start. I know some people don’t want this site to be full of ads, but the ad revenue makes it easier for me to pump out a lot of content and give it away for free. I also like that the ads are at least relevant to the content and can make people aware of even more personal development material. Sometimes the ads make me laugh as well, like the ones that tell me I can “buy spirituality on ebay.” By the way, if you want to add Chitika eMiniMalls ads to your own web site or blog, I say give it a try. It might flop, but it could do very well. It only takes minutes to setup an account and generate the code, so the risk is negligible. Chitika pays you monthly via Paypal (or check) 60% of whatever they earn from the advertisers. Plus you can combine Chitika ads with Adsense ads on the same pages, as long as you display the Chitika ads in non-contextual mode. You basically just provide some keywords, so the ads will still be semi-targeted. This is especially great if you have a themed site or blog with consistent content on a particular topic. If you’d like to use my affiliate link to sign up with Chitika yourself, then just click the banner below. You still get the same amount of money either way, but if you use my link, I earn an extra 10% as well, so you’ll also be contributing to the Million Dollar Experiment. Here’s the link: Chitika eMiniMalls referral link In other news I learned today that this blog now has a Google page rank of 7, so it recently moved up from a rank of 6. I’ve been seeing search traffic to the blog increase dramatically over the past few months. Last month it received traffic from over 14,000 different search terms. Also, this blog’s Technorati rank increased from #420 to #393 over the past few days, so now it’s crept into the top 400 (out of 20.5 million blogs). I’d love to see this blog reach the top 100. I’d say it definitely has a shot. It’s funny that when I started this personal development site in October 2004, I used to get frequent emails from people who knew me from the computer gaming industry telling me it was a stupid idea and that I had nothing new to offer and that I was making a big mistake and should stick with doing games. It was like being excommunicated, as if I’d committed a grave sin by abandoning the gaming industry. I think it especially offended certain people that I chose to blog about personal development instead of game development. I just ignored those emails though, since they had nothing to do with me — they were all about the other person’s attachments to a false sense of who I was. I don’t get emails like that anymore though. I often say to people that when you make a big change in your life, it takes the rest of the world about two years to catch up with your new self image, including family and friends. If this Million Dollar Experiment succeeds, I imagine there will be some people in my life who have a really hard time accepting it. Imagine how the people around you would react if you had a million extra dollars you didn’t even need. I already see a bit of that reaction with my abundance of time freedom. The whole concept of abundance tends to rub scarcity-minded people the wrong way, as if it’s a threat to their sense of security. I personally believe this experiment will succeed. I already feel a certain sense of energy about it after focusing my intention to kick it off.
    Jul 12, 2011 817
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Many books on time management recommend the practice of thinking of each hour of your time as being worth a specific quantity of money. It’s an extension of the “time is money” concept. First you figure out what your hourly rate is, and then you use that as a guide to determine where you should spend your time. If you want to earn more money, then you must first mentally raise your hourly rate, so you can start doing activities that are worth more. For example, if you currently earn $50/hour and want to earn $75/hour, then you have to do less and less $50/hour work as you shift to doing $75/hour work. Brian Tracy advocates this type of thinking in his time management programs, as do many other time management experts. I’ve used this model myself in the past. I’ve spent a lot of time considering this paradigm, and at present I have only one problem with it. It’s stupid! It’s possibly the stupidest paradigm you can use for income generation. While it seems enticing on the surface, in the long run it will hurt you more than help you. Let’s take a look under the hood… The Good On the positive side, if you tell yourself that your time is worth $50/hour, then that can help you focus. It can make you aware of those activities that clearly aren’t worth $50/hour that you might still be doing, especially if you track your time usage with a time log. Once you become aware that you’re wasting time on low payoff activities, then you can begin reducing, eliminating, or outsourcing those low payoff tasks. For example, you could recruit a part-time personal assistant to offload much of the $10/hour and $20/hour work. My wife runs an online vegetarian magazine, and she has a staff of people working for her including an assistant, editors, and writers to offload much of the work that can be done at a lower hourly rate than her own. It works great. This seems like good common sense if you want to improve your productivity. If you can earn $50/hour, then you should spend as much as your work time as possible doing $50+/hour work, shouldn’t you? Recruit others to do any work that pays less. The benefits of this particular optimization may be hidden in a large corporate environment where personal productivity isn’t strongly linked to pay, but it’s very noticeable if you’re self-employed. The Bad The big problem is that when you tell yourself your time is worth $50/hour, you’re simultaneously telling yourself that it isn’t worth $75/hour or $200/hour or $10,000/hour. You’re programming your subconscious mind to limit the range of opportunities you will notice. Because you won’t be on the lookout for $10,000/hour ideas, you’ll overlook them completely. If you tell yourself you earn $50/hour, you’ll think in terms of $50/hour opportunities. Thinking in terms of an hourly rate may help limit your downside, but it also severely limits your upside. And that’s a really bad trade-off, bad enough that it requires me to dismiss this whole paradigm as utterly stupid. There’s no way the upside of turning some $20 hours into $50 hours can compensate for missing those $10,000 hours. That’s penny-wise, pound-foolish. One $10,000 hour is worth 200 $50 hours. That’s more than a month of full-time work! You don’t need too many of those huge payoff hours to pick up the slack of some of those less productive $0-20 hours, but if you miss out on even one of those $10,000 hours, it’s a crippling blow that overwhelms all other thoughts about financial productivity. In the long run, your greatest financial risk isn’t whether you made the mistake of succumbing to doing $20/hour work when you could have done $50/hour work. Your greatest risk is missing those $10,000 hours. And most people miss out on them completely. It’s ironic that people think of being a salaried employee as being low-risk and being an entrepreneur as high-risk. The reality is just the opposite. One of the reasons I chose the entrepreneurial path is that it’s just way too damned risky to be an employee. I’m not kidding. It’s easy to hit a good number of those $10,000 hours as an entrepreneur, but it’s a lot harder to do so as an employee. How many $10,000 hours did you enjoy this year? How rare is it for a $50/hour salaried employee to experience even one of those $10,000 hours in the entire course of their career? Pretty rare I would say. Certainly not a normal, expected occurrence. But this isn’t because such opportunities don’t exist — it’s because your limiting beliefs about how much your time is worth prevent you from noticing them. Simply choosing to believe that it is possible will open the door to allowing it to manifest. You don’t need anyone’s permission to believe you can come up with an idea that you can implement in less than an hour that will earn you an extra $10,000. Such ideas are naturally plentiful, but you won’t notice them until you adopt the right mindset. Right now as you’re reading this, such an opportunity is practically staring you in the face, and you’re completely oblivious to it. It’s just like how my colorblindness prevents me from ever seeing the color red as other people can; it’s beyond my ability to perceive. Once you release the brakes and embrace the idea that a single hour of your time could be worth $10,000 or more, you’ll almost immediately begin to notice such opportunities. I suspect you’ll uncover the first one in less than 48 hours. The Ugly What the heck is $50/hour work anyway? Who determines what an hour of your time is worth? If you’re self-employed, then you set your own hourly rate. And that’s fine if your work requires hourly billing. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all of your working time is worth that same hourly rate. If you do that, you’ll begin to tune out much more lucrative opportunities. If you’re an employee in a corporate environment, then your salary sets your hourly rate, depending on how many hours you typically work each week. And in this high-risk situation you have a double problem. First, you have the previously mentioned challenge of getting yourself to think outside the hourly rate box. But secondly, in corporate environments it’s rare to find fair incentives for employees to have such breakthroughs. If you have one of those $10,000 hours on the job, you probably won’t share in the rewards. You’ll just enjoy your usual $50 pay for that hour, while the company keeps the other $9950 you’ve created. At least entrepreneurs and self-employed people get to keep the whole $10,000. Whom does the hourly rate mindset benefit? It benefits those who get to keep the extra value above and beyond that rate. But because this paradigm suffers an imbalance between value creation and reward, I think it also cripples the will to generate those $10,000 ideas. If you aren’t going to benefit from the extra value you create, then why bother to create it? The solution is to think like an entrepreneur, even if you’re an employee. If you can devise and implement an idea in one hour that ends up saving your company $25,000 a year, I’d say you damn well deserve to be paid $10,000 for that hour of your time. But too often employees don’t bother to negotiate such terms with their employers. They willingly submit themselves to the tyranny of the hourly rate. Having been an employer myself though, I’ll tell you that if an employee came to me and said she had a low-risk idea that would put $25,000 in my pocket and which could be implemented independently by her in an hour, and she asked to be paid $10,000 only if and when the idea proved itself, I’d be pulling out my checkbook. In fact, I’d ask her if she had a twin I could hire too. But if you don’t negotiate such deals in advance, then by default the employer receives all the value above and beyond your normal hourly rate. If I ever found myself an employee (which I can’t imagine happening), I’d be on the constant lookout for those $10,000 ideas. I’d befriend someone who had the authority to pay bonuses in the manner described above, even if I had to work my way up the chain of command a bit. Then I’d look for simple ways to increase the company’s revenue or cut its costs that would produce tangible, measurable results. And I’d negotiate the ability to either be paid a fixed sum if the value can be determined in advance or to share in a certain percentage of whatever value was created. If I found that my boss didn’t have the necessary authority or the will to authorize this sort of thing, then I’d keep going up the chain of command until I found someone who did. It’s simply a matter of finding someone who will directly benefit from my extra value creation. It could be a stock-owning VP, the CEO, or even an investor. People who have a direct financial stake in the enterprise will not want to see profit-creating or cost-cutting ideas being squashed unreasonably, but beneath this level, you might run into a lot more closed-mindedness. But fortunately those who share in the profits of your ideas will normally have the authority to overrule those who don’t. So don’t let your boss get in your way. If you develop the habit of implementing $10,000 ideas, you’ll soon be the boss anyway. If I found myself working for a company or organization where this level of flexibility was impossible, I’d quit and go work in a less draconian environment. There are enough progressive companies around now that it isn’t necessary to work for one of the unenlightened ones. All Hours Are Not Created Equal My income isn’t based on how much time I spend working. It’s a function of the value I create. I can work a whole month and produce less monetary value than I do in one breakthrough hour. Every hour is unique. I stopped thinking in terms of a fixed hourly rate many years ago. In practical terms an hour of my time could be worth $0, or it could be worth $10,000 or more, depending on what I do with that particular hour. Much of the time I pursue activities that don’t generate any income at all, even though I still consider it to be productive work. Answering email doesn’t seem to pay too well, and I don’t get paid an hourly rate for writing blog entries and articles. But sometimes I’ll get an idea which I can implement in just 30-60 minutes that will earn me an extra $10,000 over the course of a year, often continuing for many years thereafter. So the concept of an hourly rate, even an average hourly rate, is meaningless to me. A recent specific example was adding those Chitika eMiniMalls ads to this site. As I previously reported, this took very little time to implement (less than an hour), but it should ultimately generate thousands of dollars a year in extra revenue. And it takes me virtually no work at all to maintain this income aside from depositing checks. Edit 6/25/06:  As it turns out, Chitika’s performance declined as they “improved” their system, so I later dropped them and no longer recommend them (along with many other bloggers).  Therefore, that turned out to be closer to a $1000 hour instead of the $10,000 one it initially seemed to be.  However, adding a donations page to the site, which took about an hour as well, has done much better than I expected and is easily a $10,000+ hour.  So the lesson is to keep experimenting. In the normal course of my work, those $10,000 hours are becoming more common. I normally have several a year, along with some $1000 hours, $5000 hours, and so on. Usually the money doesn’t come right away, but it still blows away the concept of an hourly rate. It wouldn’t even be accurate to say that it’s those other hours that make the $10,000 hour possible. Sometimes the $10,000 is just a random idea from out of the blue, or maybe it’s something that comes to me from a book or another person. Almost always the $10,000 hour is the result of a great idea. And great ideas can strike at any time. When I get one of those $10,000 candidate ideas, I’ll normally drop everything and implement it right away. If it flops (and usually it does), I’ve lost an hour, but I still learned something. Most of the time it isn’t a total loss. I end up with a lot of $10, $50, and $250 ideas too. But I can afford to endure dozens of those relative flops for the chance to hit just one more $10,000 idea. And when it works, I must say it’s pretty darn nice. It’s not that $10,000 is a lot of money per se. The idea isn’t to make just $10,000 here and there. It’s to make $10,000 for only one hour’s worth of work. That’s what makes the entrepreneurial game so much fun. You never know when one of those $10,000 ideas will strike. Imagine working each day with the very real possibility that you could earn an extra $10,000 that day, completely out of the blue. If your normal hourly rate for a full-time job was $10,000, you’d be earning $20 million per year, and in that case $10,000/hour would be no big deal. But if you earn something closer to $50/hour, then one of those $10,000 hours is a major breakthrough. And the truth is that those $10,000 hours are a lot more accessible than you might think. Regardless of whether you’re an employee, self-employed, or otherwise entrepreneurial, don’t cap your income by thinking in terms of an hourly rate. Once you free yourself from this punishing paradigm, you’ll invite the opportunity to enjoy some of those $10,000 hours. It’s really just a matter of giving yourself permission to experience them.
    739 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Many books on time management recommend the practice of thinking of each hour of your time as being worth a specific quantity of money. It’s an extension of the “time is money” concept. First you figure out what your hourly rate is, and then you use that as a guide to determine where you should spend your time. If you want to earn more money, then you must first mentally raise your hourly rate, so you can start doing activities that are worth more. For example, if you currently earn $50/hour and want to earn $75/hour, then you have to do less and less $50/hour work as you shift to doing $75/hour work. Brian Tracy advocates this type of thinking in his time management programs, as do many other time management experts. I’ve used this model myself in the past. I’ve spent a lot of time considering this paradigm, and at present I have only one problem with it. It’s stupid! It’s possibly the stupidest paradigm you can use for income generation. While it seems enticing on the surface, in the long run it will hurt you more than help you. Let’s take a look under the hood… The Good On the positive side, if you tell yourself that your time is worth $50/hour, then that can help you focus. It can make you aware of those activities that clearly aren’t worth $50/hour that you might still be doing, especially if you track your time usage with a time log. Once you become aware that you’re wasting time on low payoff activities, then you can begin reducing, eliminating, or outsourcing those low payoff tasks. For example, you could recruit a part-time personal assistant to offload much of the $10/hour and $20/hour work. My wife runs an online vegetarian magazine, and she has a staff of people working for her including an assistant, editors, and writers to offload much of the work that can be done at a lower hourly rate than her own. It works great. This seems like good common sense if you want to improve your productivity. If you can earn $50/hour, then you should spend as much as your work time as possible doing $50+/hour work, shouldn’t you? Recruit others to do any work that pays less. The benefits of this particular optimization may be hidden in a large corporate environment where personal productivity isn’t strongly linked to pay, but it’s very noticeable if you’re self-employed. The Bad The big problem is that when you tell yourself your time is worth $50/hour, you’re simultaneously telling yourself that it isn’t worth $75/hour or $200/hour or $10,000/hour. You’re programming your subconscious mind to limit the range of opportunities you will notice. Because you won’t be on the lookout for $10,000/hour ideas, you’ll overlook them completely. If you tell yourself you earn $50/hour, you’ll think in terms of $50/hour opportunities. Thinking in terms of an hourly rate may help limit your downside, but it also severely limits your upside. And that’s a really bad trade-off, bad enough that it requires me to dismiss this whole paradigm as utterly stupid. There’s no way the upside of turning some $20 hours into $50 hours can compensate for missing those $10,000 hours. That’s penny-wise, pound-foolish. One $10,000 hour is worth 200 $50 hours. That’s more than a month of full-time work! You don’t need too many of those huge payoff hours to pick up the slack of some of those less productive $0-20 hours, but if you miss out on even one of those $10,000 hours, it’s a crippling blow that overwhelms all other thoughts about financial productivity. In the long run, your greatest financial risk isn’t whether you made the mistake of succumbing to doing $20/hour work when you could have done $50/hour work. Your greatest risk is missing those $10,000 hours. And most people miss out on them completely. It’s ironic that people think of being a salaried employee as being low-risk and being an entrepreneur as high-risk. The reality is just the opposite. One of the reasons I chose the entrepreneurial path is that it’s just way too damned risky to be an employee. I’m not kidding. It’s easy to hit a good number of those $10,000 hours as an entrepreneur, but it’s a lot harder to do so as an employee. How many $10,000 hours did you enjoy this year? How rare is it for a $50/hour salaried employee to experience even one of those $10,000 hours in the entire course of their career? Pretty rare I would say. Certainly not a normal, expected occurrence. But this isn’t because such opportunities don’t exist — it’s because your limiting beliefs about how much your time is worth prevent you from noticing them. Simply choosing to believe that it is possible will open the door to allowing it to manifest. You don’t need anyone’s permission to believe you can come up with an idea that you can implement in less than an hour that will earn you an extra $10,000. Such ideas are naturally plentiful, but you won’t notice them until you adopt the right mindset. Right now as you’re reading this, such an opportunity is practically staring you in the face, and you’re completely oblivious to it. It’s just like how my colorblindness prevents me from ever seeing the color red as other people can; it’s beyond my ability to perceive. Once you release the brakes and embrace the idea that a single hour of your time could be worth $10,000 or more, you’ll almost immediately begin to notice such opportunities. I suspect you’ll uncover the first one in less than 48 hours. The Ugly What the heck is $50/hour work anyway? Who determines what an hour of your time is worth? If you’re self-employed, then you set your own hourly rate. And that’s fine if your work requires hourly billing. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all of your working time is worth that same hourly rate. If you do that, you’ll begin to tune out much more lucrative opportunities. If you’re an employee in a corporate environment, then your salary sets your hourly rate, depending on how many hours you typically work each week. And in this high-risk situation you have a double problem. First, you have the previously mentioned challenge of getting yourself to think outside the hourly rate box. But secondly, in corporate environments it’s rare to find fair incentives for employees to have such breakthroughs. If you have one of those $10,000 hours on the job, you probably won’t share in the rewards. You’ll just enjoy your usual $50 pay for that hour, while the company keeps the other $9950 you’ve created. At least entrepreneurs and self-employed people get to keep the whole $10,000. Whom does the hourly rate mindset benefit? It benefits those who get to keep the extra value above and beyond that rate. But because this paradigm suffers an imbalance between value creation and reward, I think it also cripples the will to generate those $10,000 ideas. If you aren’t going to benefit from the extra value you create, then why bother to create it? The solution is to think like an entrepreneur, even if you’re an employee. If you can devise and implement an idea in one hour that ends up saving your company $25,000 a year, I’d say you damn well deserve to be paid $10,000 for that hour of your time. But too often employees don’t bother to negotiate such terms with their employers. They willingly submit themselves to the tyranny of the hourly rate. Having been an employer myself though, I’ll tell you that if an employee came to me and said she had a low-risk idea that would put $25,000 in my pocket and which could be implemented independently by her in an hour, and she asked to be paid $10,000 only if and when the idea proved itself, I’d be pulling out my checkbook. In fact, I’d ask her if she had a twin I could hire too. But if you don’t negotiate such deals in advance, then by default the employer receives all the value above and beyond your normal hourly rate. If I ever found myself an employee (which I can’t imagine happening), I’d be on the constant lookout for those $10,000 ideas. I’d befriend someone who had the authority to pay bonuses in the manner described above, even if I had to work my way up the chain of command a bit. Then I’d look for simple ways to increase the company’s revenue or cut its costs that would produce tangible, measurable results. And I’d negotiate the ability to either be paid a fixed sum if the value can be determined in advance or to share in a certain percentage of whatever value was created. If I found that my boss didn’t have the necessary authority or the will to authorize this sort of thing, then I’d keep going up the chain of command until I found someone who did. It’s simply a matter of finding someone who will directly benefit from my extra value creation. It could be a stock-owning VP, the CEO, or even an investor. People who have a direct financial stake in the enterprise will not want to see profit-creating or cost-cutting ideas being squashed unreasonably, but beneath this level, you might run into a lot more closed-mindedness. But fortunately those who share in the profits of your ideas will normally have the authority to overrule those who don’t. So don’t let your boss get in your way. If you develop the habit of implementing $10,000 ideas, you’ll soon be the boss anyway. If I found myself working for a company or organization where this level of flexibility was impossible, I’d quit and go work in a less draconian environment. There are enough progressive companies around now that it isn’t necessary to work for one of the unenlightened ones. All Hours Are Not Created Equal My income isn’t based on how much time I spend working. It’s a function of the value I create. I can work a whole month and produce less monetary value than I do in one breakthrough hour. Every hour is unique. I stopped thinking in terms of a fixed hourly rate many years ago. In practical terms an hour of my time could be worth $0, or it could be worth $10,000 or more, depending on what I do with that particular hour. Much of the time I pursue activities that don’t generate any income at all, even though I still consider it to be productive work. Answering email doesn’t seem to pay too well, and I don’t get paid an hourly rate for writing blog entries and articles. But sometimes I’ll get an idea which I can implement in just 30-60 minutes that will earn me an extra $10,000 over the course of a year, often continuing for many years thereafter. So the concept of an hourly rate, even an average hourly rate, is meaningless to me. A recent specific example was adding those Chitika eMiniMalls ads to this site. As I previously reported, this took very little time to implement (less than an hour), but it should ultimately generate thousands of dollars a year in extra revenue. And it takes me virtually no work at all to maintain this income aside from depositing checks. Edit 6/25/06:  As it turns out, Chitika’s performance declined as they “improved” their system, so I later dropped them and no longer recommend them (along with many other bloggers).  Therefore, that turned out to be closer to a $1000 hour instead of the $10,000 one it initially seemed to be.  However, adding a donations page to the site, which took about an hour as well, has done much better than I expected and is easily a $10,000+ hour.  So the lesson is to keep experimenting. In the normal course of my work, those $10,000 hours are becoming more common. I normally have several a year, along with some $1000 hours, $5000 hours, and so on. Usually the money doesn’t come right away, but it still blows away the concept of an hourly rate. It wouldn’t even be accurate to say that it’s those other hours that make the $10,000 hour possible. Sometimes the $10,000 is just a random idea from out of the blue, or maybe it’s something that comes to me from a book or another person. Almost always the $10,000 hour is the result of a great idea. And great ideas can strike at any time. When I get one of those $10,000 candidate ideas, I’ll normally drop everything and implement it right away. If it flops (and usually it does), I’ve lost an hour, but I still learned something. Most of the time it isn’t a total loss. I end up with a lot of $10, $50, and $250 ideas too. But I can afford to endure dozens of those relative flops for the chance to hit just one more $10,000 idea. And when it works, I must say it’s pretty darn nice. It’s not that $10,000 is a lot of money per se. The idea isn’t to make just $10,000 here and there. It’s to make $10,000 for only one hour’s worth of work. That’s what makes the entrepreneurial game so much fun. You never know when one of those $10,000 ideas will strike. Imagine working each day with the very real possibility that you could earn an extra $10,000 that day, completely out of the blue. If your normal hourly rate for a full-time job was $10,000, you’d be earning $20 million per year, and in that case $10,000/hour would be no big deal. But if you earn something closer to $50/hour, then one of those $10,000 hours is a major breakthrough. And the truth is that those $10,000 hours are a lot more accessible than you might think. Regardless of whether you’re an employee, self-employed, or otherwise entrepreneurial, don’t cap your income by thinking in terms of an hourly rate. Once you free yourself from this punishing paradigm, you’ll invite the opportunity to enjoy some of those $10,000 hours. It’s really just a matter of giving yourself permission to experience them.
    Jul 12, 2011 739
  • 12 Jul 2011
    There’s a nice article in Fast Company about the ongoing quest for meaning in one’s work and career:  What Should I Do With My Life? This part of the article certainly resonates with my own musings on career: Those who are lit by that passion are the object of envy among their peers and the subject of intense curiosity. They are the source of good ideas. They make the extra effort. They demonstrate the commitment. They are the ones who, day by day, will rescue this drifting ship. And they will be rewarded. With money, sure, and responsibility, undoubtedly. But with something even better too: the kind of satisfaction that comes with knowing your place in the world. We are sitting on a huge potential boom in productivity — if we could just get the square pegs out of the round holes. Of course, addressing the question, What should I do with my life? isn’t just a productivity issue: It’s a moral imperative. It’s how we hold ourselves accountable to the opportunity we’re given. Most of us are blessed with the ultimate privilege: We get to be true to our individual nature. Our economy is so vast that we don’t have to grind it out forever at jobs we hate. For the most part, we get to choose. That choice isn’t about a career search so much as an identity quest. Asking The Question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. There is nothing more brave than filtering out the chatter that tells you to be someone you’re not. There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. Asking The Question is nothing short of an act of courage: It requires a level of commitment and clarity that is almost foreign to our working lives.
    740 Posted by UniqueThis
  • There’s a nice article in Fast Company about the ongoing quest for meaning in one’s work and career:  What Should I Do With My Life? This part of the article certainly resonates with my own musings on career: Those who are lit by that passion are the object of envy among their peers and the subject of intense curiosity. They are the source of good ideas. They make the extra effort. They demonstrate the commitment. They are the ones who, day by day, will rescue this drifting ship. And they will be rewarded. With money, sure, and responsibility, undoubtedly. But with something even better too: the kind of satisfaction that comes with knowing your place in the world. We are sitting on a huge potential boom in productivity — if we could just get the square pegs out of the round holes. Of course, addressing the question, What should I do with my life? isn’t just a productivity issue: It’s a moral imperative. It’s how we hold ourselves accountable to the opportunity we’re given. Most of us are blessed with the ultimate privilege: We get to be true to our individual nature. Our economy is so vast that we don’t have to grind it out forever at jobs we hate. For the most part, we get to choose. That choice isn’t about a career search so much as an identity quest. Asking The Question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. There is nothing more brave than filtering out the chatter that tells you to be someone you’re not. There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. Asking The Question is nothing short of an act of courage: It requires a level of commitment and clarity that is almost foreign to our working lives.
    Jul 12, 2011 740
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I hear this one a lot:  I want to start my own business, but my wife won’t let me because she thinks it’s too risky. There are variations using “girlfriend” or “fiancée,” but so far I can’t recall a single instance of a woman telling me her husband/boyfriend wouldn’t let her start a business, not to mention male-male and female-female relationships or those involving pets.  Certainly other situations are possible, but I’ll just address the most common one and avoid getting lost in a quagmire of pronouns. My wife won’t let me start my own business… Would it help if you told her I said it was OK? Or perhaps you could get a note from your Mommy: Dear Kim, Johnny has my permission to start his own business if that’s what he really wants. Love, Mom Would that make it all better? Your wife won’t let you start your own business?  What’re you… six years old?  Have you softened your will so much that you now live only by the voice of the collective:  “You will not start your own business.  Individuality is irrelevant.  Resistance is futile.” Your wife won’t let you?  Are you a homo sapien or a wimpus maximus? Perhaps the reality of the situation is that your wife thinks you’re incompetent, and if you were to start your own business, your family may go broke and lose all the nice stuff you’ve acquired. She’s probably right. After all, most new businesses do fail.  If this is the first business you’re starting, it probably won’t work out too well in the long run. Remember the scene in The Matrix when Neo tries to do his first superjump and smacks face-first into the ground.  What does it mean?  “Nothing,” came the reply.  “Everyone falls the first time.” But guess what… you know what happens after that?  You get up and do it again.  You just keep going.  The world doesn’t actually spin off its axis just because one business fails.  Well, some business failures cause quite a wobble (Enron… cough cough), but the earth soon rights itself once again. Even if there’s a great prophecy about your first stab at business and it turns out you’re The One, you’re still probably going to fall flat on your face.  Even Bill Gates and Paul Allen threw in the towel with Traf-O-Data.  (Otherwise traffic lights everywhere would now be participating in DDOS attacks.)  Geeky enthusiasm will only get you so far.  Experience makes quite a difference. So I’d say your wife is right.  Your first business probably will tank.  Your first product won’t sell.  Your first web site will look like a college professor made it.  Everyone falls the first time.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it anyway.  Nor does it mean you have to fulfill the part of the prophecy that says you have to die trying. Did you know that it’s possible to start a new business without risking your entire life savings?  (I wish someone had explained that to me back in 1994!)  When I started this personal development business in October 2004, I went right out and plunked down the hefty sum of $9 to register the domain name.  After that I required that every other dollar I wanted to spend on this business would come out of revenue.  Partly that was just to see if I could do it because starting a business on less than $10 cash might make for a good story someday (hmmm… perhaps that day has finally come.)  I didn’t bother to get a DBA or business cards or cutesy stationary or have a cool logo made or anything like that.  Just the domain name.  I even got free web hosting by sharing a web server with another site.  I still haven’t spent a dime on marketing. In truth I was taking a greater financial risk than just $9 because I sacrificed a lot of potential income — obviously I invested my time which could have been used to generate income elsewhere.  And I had other sources of income and savings to temporarily cover my personal expenses.  But I didn’t go into debt to do it, and I didn’t dip into savings for business expenses.  If this was my first business, I’d probably be in serious trouble by this point, or I just wouldn’t be making money at all.  Instead I’m actually enjoying a positive cashflow.  It’s not making me rich yet, but it’s reached the point where it should be relatively easy to sustain and grow. This isn’t my first business though.  Technically it’s my third.  First I ran a computer games business developing retail games for five years, then I switched to a shareware games model for six years — those were really two completely different businesses, although I kept the same company name throughout.  And then there’s StevePavlina.com, which I think of more as a mission than a business, but it’s still technically a business.  The first games business flopped completely.  The second one worked nicely, but I chose not to continue growing it.  And I expect StevePavlina.com will be the best of all, especially since it’s a much better fit for my own strengths.  I wouldn’t be nearly so far along with this business if I didn’t already have a decade’s worth of experience from my games business. Even if your wife expects you to fail in business, did you know that it’s perfectly OK to go out and prove her right?  She’d like that — it will build her self-esteem.  She gets to be right, and you gain experience.  And eventually that experience will make you right too.  It will just take a bit longer. If you start a new business and it flops, you just have to do what Neo did.  Get your butt back up on top of that skyscraper and try again.  If you fall it’s going to sting a bit, but it won’t kill you (unless you happen to borrow money from the wrong people).  And pretty soon you’ll be flying around, dodging bullets, wearing cool shades, and saying, “Whoa” a lot. How many tries did it take you to learn to walk?  When you fell the first time and cried your eyes out, did your Mommy grab you and say, “That does it!  No more walking for you, mister!  You can just remain seated for life.” If you ask someone out on a date and get a rejection, does that mean you’re sentenced to celibacy?  If you endure some bad Chinese food, does that mean you should never enjoy fortune cookies again?  If your five-year old daughter decides it would be fun to tear certain Christmas decorations to shreds and sprinkle the living room with Styrofoam rubble and pretend it’s snow, does that mean — oh, never mind. Your wife may be right, but that doesn’t mean you need to let her stop you from starting your own business.  In truth you’re just using it as an excuse to stop yourself.  You don’t have to take a huge financial risk to start a business.  You don’t even have to start one full-time.  But there are few things in life that will do as much for your own personal growth as the act of starting a business. If you’re seriously whipped though, I’ll give you an extra secret that will allow you to get anything you want from your wife.  It’s called a foot massage.  Master the art of the foot massage, and your wife will never stand in your way again.  Don’t even ask.  Just grab a foot and go to it.  After 5–10 minutes, you can ask for anything you want with a 95% chance of agreement.  And if you get that rare 5% rejection, just gradually work your way up through the rest of her body, and try again once you’ve squeezed all the resistance out of her.  Endorphins are your friends. Lost a lot of money in stocks?  Foot massage.  Accidentally wiped your digital wedding photos from the hard drive?  Foot massage.  Told your wife you think she’s looking older?  Foot massage… performed orally. It took me a good 10 years to become a master pedomasseur. It’s well worth the time to develop this skill though, especially if you expect to be with the same woman for many more years. But even if you’re new to foot massaging, I think your wife will find that even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Once you develop a reasonable degree of proficiency and can send your wife to la-la land in a matter of minutes, you need only remember the phrase, “Honey, would you like a foot massage?” Even when she’s certain that you’re up to no good, she’ll be unable to resist such guaranteed pleasure. Ten minutes later when the endorphins have taken her brain offline, you will pretty much own her. This is far more efficient than any amount of verbal persuasion. And it’s a lot more enjoyable for your wife. Words will only make a mess of things. If your wife won’t let you start your own business, don’t try to convince her of your glorious battle plan to go out and conquer the world.  She’s right anyway — you’re going to get pummeled to a pulp.  No amount of flowery verbiage and colorful bar graphs will convince her that she should listen to you instead of her intuition.  Just make her feet feel yummy, and you’ll be free to suffer the slings and arrows of your own incompetence for years with her full support.  Eventually you’ll become competent.  But I recommend you continue the foot massages anyway… just in case. Now go grab a foot and start squeezing. Whoa.
    740 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I hear this one a lot:  I want to start my own business, but my wife won’t let me because she thinks it’s too risky. There are variations using “girlfriend” or “fiancée,” but so far I can’t recall a single instance of a woman telling me her husband/boyfriend wouldn’t let her start a business, not to mention male-male and female-female relationships or those involving pets.  Certainly other situations are possible, but I’ll just address the most common one and avoid getting lost in a quagmire of pronouns. My wife won’t let me start my own business… Would it help if you told her I said it was OK? Or perhaps you could get a note from your Mommy: Dear Kim, Johnny has my permission to start his own business if that’s what he really wants. Love, Mom Would that make it all better? Your wife won’t let you start your own business?  What’re you… six years old?  Have you softened your will so much that you now live only by the voice of the collective:  “You will not start your own business.  Individuality is irrelevant.  Resistance is futile.” Your wife won’t let you?  Are you a homo sapien or a wimpus maximus? Perhaps the reality of the situation is that your wife thinks you’re incompetent, and if you were to start your own business, your family may go broke and lose all the nice stuff you’ve acquired. She’s probably right. After all, most new businesses do fail.  If this is the first business you’re starting, it probably won’t work out too well in the long run. Remember the scene in The Matrix when Neo tries to do his first superjump and smacks face-first into the ground.  What does it mean?  “Nothing,” came the reply.  “Everyone falls the first time.” But guess what… you know what happens after that?  You get up and do it again.  You just keep going.  The world doesn’t actually spin off its axis just because one business fails.  Well, some business failures cause quite a wobble (Enron… cough cough), but the earth soon rights itself once again. Even if there’s a great prophecy about your first stab at business and it turns out you’re The One, you’re still probably going to fall flat on your face.  Even Bill Gates and Paul Allen threw in the towel with Traf-O-Data.  (Otherwise traffic lights everywhere would now be participating in DDOS attacks.)  Geeky enthusiasm will only get you so far.  Experience makes quite a difference. So I’d say your wife is right.  Your first business probably will tank.  Your first product won’t sell.  Your first web site will look like a college professor made it.  Everyone falls the first time.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it anyway.  Nor does it mean you have to fulfill the part of the prophecy that says you have to die trying. Did you know that it’s possible to start a new business without risking your entire life savings?  (I wish someone had explained that to me back in 1994!)  When I started this personal development business in October 2004, I went right out and plunked down the hefty sum of $9 to register the domain name.  After that I required that every other dollar I wanted to spend on this business would come out of revenue.  Partly that was just to see if I could do it because starting a business on less than $10 cash might make for a good story someday (hmmm… perhaps that day has finally come.)  I didn’t bother to get a DBA or business cards or cutesy stationary or have a cool logo made or anything like that.  Just the domain name.  I even got free web hosting by sharing a web server with another site.  I still haven’t spent a dime on marketing. In truth I was taking a greater financial risk than just $9 because I sacrificed a lot of potential income — obviously I invested my time which could have been used to generate income elsewhere.  And I had other sources of income and savings to temporarily cover my personal expenses.  But I didn’t go into debt to do it, and I didn’t dip into savings for business expenses.  If this was my first business, I’d probably be in serious trouble by this point, or I just wouldn’t be making money at all.  Instead I’m actually enjoying a positive cashflow.  It’s not making me rich yet, but it’s reached the point where it should be relatively easy to sustain and grow. This isn’t my first business though.  Technically it’s my third.  First I ran a computer games business developing retail games for five years, then I switched to a shareware games model for six years — those were really two completely different businesses, although I kept the same company name throughout.  And then there’s StevePavlina.com, which I think of more as a mission than a business, but it’s still technically a business.  The first games business flopped completely.  The second one worked nicely, but I chose not to continue growing it.  And I expect StevePavlina.com will be the best of all, especially since it’s a much better fit for my own strengths.  I wouldn’t be nearly so far along with this business if I didn’t already have a decade’s worth of experience from my games business. Even if your wife expects you to fail in business, did you know that it’s perfectly OK to go out and prove her right?  She’d like that — it will build her self-esteem.  She gets to be right, and you gain experience.  And eventually that experience will make you right too.  It will just take a bit longer. If you start a new business and it flops, you just have to do what Neo did.  Get your butt back up on top of that skyscraper and try again.  If you fall it’s going to sting a bit, but it won’t kill you (unless you happen to borrow money from the wrong people).  And pretty soon you’ll be flying around, dodging bullets, wearing cool shades, and saying, “Whoa” a lot. How many tries did it take you to learn to walk?  When you fell the first time and cried your eyes out, did your Mommy grab you and say, “That does it!  No more walking for you, mister!  You can just remain seated for life.” If you ask someone out on a date and get a rejection, does that mean you’re sentenced to celibacy?  If you endure some bad Chinese food, does that mean you should never enjoy fortune cookies again?  If your five-year old daughter decides it would be fun to tear certain Christmas decorations to shreds and sprinkle the living room with Styrofoam rubble and pretend it’s snow, does that mean — oh, never mind. Your wife may be right, but that doesn’t mean you need to let her stop you from starting your own business.  In truth you’re just using it as an excuse to stop yourself.  You don’t have to take a huge financial risk to start a business.  You don’t even have to start one full-time.  But there are few things in life that will do as much for your own personal growth as the act of starting a business. If you’re seriously whipped though, I’ll give you an extra secret that will allow you to get anything you want from your wife.  It’s called a foot massage.  Master the art of the foot massage, and your wife will never stand in your way again.  Don’t even ask.  Just grab a foot and go to it.  After 5–10 minutes, you can ask for anything you want with a 95% chance of agreement.  And if you get that rare 5% rejection, just gradually work your way up through the rest of her body, and try again once you’ve squeezed all the resistance out of her.  Endorphins are your friends. Lost a lot of money in stocks?  Foot massage.  Accidentally wiped your digital wedding photos from the hard drive?  Foot massage.  Told your wife you think she’s looking older?  Foot massage… performed orally. It took me a good 10 years to become a master pedomasseur. It’s well worth the time to develop this skill though, especially if you expect to be with the same woman for many more years. But even if you’re new to foot massaging, I think your wife will find that even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Once you develop a reasonable degree of proficiency and can send your wife to la-la land in a matter of minutes, you need only remember the phrase, “Honey, would you like a foot massage?” Even when she’s certain that you’re up to no good, she’ll be unable to resist such guaranteed pleasure. Ten minutes later when the endorphins have taken her brain offline, you will pretty much own her. This is far more efficient than any amount of verbal persuasion. And it’s a lot more enjoyable for your wife. Words will only make a mess of things. If your wife won’t let you start your own business, don’t try to convince her of your glorious battle plan to go out and conquer the world.  She’s right anyway — you’re going to get pummeled to a pulp.  No amount of flowery verbiage and colorful bar graphs will convince her that she should listen to you instead of her intuition.  Just make her feet feel yummy, and you’ll be free to suffer the slings and arrows of your own incompetence for years with her full support.  Eventually you’ll become competent.  But I recommend you continue the foot massages anyway… just in case. Now go grab a foot and start squeezing. Whoa.
    Jul 12, 2011 740
  • 12 Jul 2011
    How would you like to permanently boost your productivity by making some simple changes to your work area? If you’re going to spend so much time at your desk, then make sure it’s going to be a pleasant experience. How does your workspace make you feel? If you’re at your desk right now, take a moment to clear your mind, and think about how your work area makes you feel. Take a deep breath and get a sense of the subtle energies you pick up. How does this place make you feel? Do you feel stressed? Worried? Relaxed? Peaceful? Fired up? Motivated? Energized? Drained? Happy? Depressed? Overwhelmed? Busy? Important? Insignificant? Bored? Excited? Rushed? Angry? Creative? Aroused? Come up with a few words to describe the feeling you get from your environment. I recommend you leave your work area, go someplace else for a few minutes, and then re-enter your work area so you can pick up a fresh impression. Notice how your feelings change very subtly as you enter your place. What do you notice about this change? Get a second opinion If you have a hard time sensing your work area objectively, get a second opinion. Grab a coworker who has a fairly different work area than yours, and invite him/her to sit down at your desk. Ask him/her how it feels to enter and to sit in your work area. Get several opinions if you like. Have some fun with your co-workers, and hop from desk to desk to see how each person’s work area feels. Sit in each chair and imagine what it would be like to work there for a day. Whose work area do you like best? Whose do you like least? Maybe even rate each one on a scale of 1-10. Notice how each environment makes you feel. Also notice that no two are quite the same. What’s different about the work areas you rated most highly? What did you like about them? What if you don’t like how you feel? If you realize your work area makes you feel lousy, that’s OK. Changing the way your work environment makes you feel isn’t too difficult. There’s always a way to improve it. All you really need to do is follow this simple rule: If it feels right, it is right. If you use that as your guiding principle for making changes to your work environment, there’s no need to bring in a feng shui expert. I spent a good bit of time studying feng shui and ultimately felt that this simple rule covered about 80% of what I wanted to remember. Imagine your ideal space Identify how you’d like to feel in your work area. What mental state would you consider the very best to have as your daily default? Pick two or three words to describe it. When I did this, I chose relaxed, peaceful, and focused. Now picture what kind of work environment would help to create the feelings you’ve selected, even if it doesn’t seem realistic to work in such a place. For example, if you chose to feel peaceful, what’s the most peaceful place you can imagine? Create a mental image of the ideal place for you to work. Alter your space Now take your imagined ideal space, and project it onto the reality you have to deal with. Maybe you can’t work on a mountain lake, but perhaps you can bring part of that vision into your real space. Make a list of simple changes you can make to your work area. If you’re not sure they’ll work, that’s OK. Think of these changes as experiments. If you don’t like them, you can always undo them. One by one take some time to implement these changes. Add a poster, a fountain, a candle, a plant, or some photos. After making each change, notice how your feelings change. Remember to follow the rule, “If it feels right, it is right.” If a change feels wrong or neutral, then undo it and try something else. I want to emphasize that the rule is, “If it feels right, it is right.” Note that I’m not saying, “If it looks right, it is right.” How your environment makes you feel is more important than how it looks. Commanding position The most valuable idea I got from studying feng shui was the concept of the commanding position. This is the position where you feel supported from behind (and optionally on the sides too) and open in the front. For example if your house has a mountain or hill behind it, then your home would be in the commanding position, much like a highly defensible castle. In workspace terms, the commanding position ideally means that you work facing the entrance to your work area and have a wall right behind you. The commanding position creates a feeling of security. It makes it easier to relax when you work. When you have your back to the wall and you face the entrance to your workspace, your focus is forward, and a forward focus contributes to high productivity. You never have to concern yourself with someone approaching you from behind. If part of your focus is on what’s happening behind you, you’ll be more distracted, and your productivity will suffer. I used to work with my desk against the back wall of my office, so my back was towards the door. That just seemed an efficient layout for my office. But after studying feng shui, I decided to give the commanding position a try and rearranged the furniture so that my back was to the wall and I could see the door. It made a noticeable difference even before I’d made any other changes. I felt more comfortable and relaxed. There’s something about the feeling of being supported from behind that makes it easier to work productively. If you think of the layout of a top executive’s office, it’s almost invariably in the commanding position. The person sits facing the entrance to the room. You don’t walk into an executive’s office and see their back. If you’ve never worked in the commanding position, find someone else who has their office setup this way, and go sit at their desk. Notice how different it feels versus if your back is to the entrance and you have to worry about people coming up behind you. Even if you have a door behind you with a lock, the commanding position is still better. If you make only one change to your work area, this would be the one to make. Once you’ve tried it for a few months, you’ll never want to go back. My experience Several months ago I altered my home office with the intention of creating the feelings of relaxation, peace, and focus. It wasn’t difficult to do, and I made most of the changes in the first week. I gave myself a budget of $200 for the alterations, but I spent less than half of it. I wasn’t sure these changes would make any difference, but it was worth a try — even a small increase in productivity would be worth it. When I made these changes my office was designed with functionality and efficiency in mind, so I wanted to keep those benefits while changing the way the location felt to me. Currently as I sit at my desk, I’m facing into the middle of the room, so I can see the door. On the wall behind me is a poster of a mountain forest (which further reinforces the commanding position). I count nine scented candles within reach of me, some in decorative candle holders with small rocks. The room smells of cranberry, since that’s the candle that’s burning right now. There are three plants in the room: a medium-sized one on my filing cabinet and two small bamboo plants. The bamboo plants are next to a small fountain, which creates background sounds of water splashing over rocks. Behind the fountain and bamboo plants is a small mirror, which has the visual effect of doubling their presence. Relaxing music is playing through my PC speakers (currently I’m listening to Enya’s new Amarantine CD, which is one of my favorites). There are a few decorations around the room: a small stuffed yellow bear, a dragon sculpture, a turtle sculpture, a couple stone gargoyles, a miniature zen rock garden, and a crossbow. I keep my office organized and uncluttered as well, which contributes to the feelings of relaxation, peace, and focus. When I sit down at my desk, switch on the fountain, light a candle, and put on some relaxing music, it often feels like I’m about to get a massage rather than go to work. Because the environment is so peaceful and relaxing, it’s hard for me to feel stressed or overwhelmed. I look forward to going to my office because it’s a nice place to live, not just a productive place to work. I’m sure I’ll continue improving it over the years ahead, but I’m pretty happy with the results so far. When my wife sat down at my desk after I made the initial changes, she remarked at how different it felt. In fact, she became instantly jealous. Eventually she decided to work on transforming her office too. For Christmas I gave her a fountain and some scented candles to get her started. She set them up on a corner of her desk, and even that small change gives her work area a very different feel. If you don’t like it, change it If you find yourself too often feeling stressed, overwhelmed, bored, unmotivated, frustrated, etc. at work, perhaps your environment is reinforcing is these negative states. Take those feelings as a signal to make some changes and create a more balanced and comfortable work area for yourself. A few simple changes you make today can serve you for years to come. And don’t just read about it, think about it, or talk about it. Go do it! You’ll be glad you did.
    720 Posted by UniqueThis
  • How would you like to permanently boost your productivity by making some simple changes to your work area? If you’re going to spend so much time at your desk, then make sure it’s going to be a pleasant experience. How does your workspace make you feel? If you’re at your desk right now, take a moment to clear your mind, and think about how your work area makes you feel. Take a deep breath and get a sense of the subtle energies you pick up. How does this place make you feel? Do you feel stressed? Worried? Relaxed? Peaceful? Fired up? Motivated? Energized? Drained? Happy? Depressed? Overwhelmed? Busy? Important? Insignificant? Bored? Excited? Rushed? Angry? Creative? Aroused? Come up with a few words to describe the feeling you get from your environment. I recommend you leave your work area, go someplace else for a few minutes, and then re-enter your work area so you can pick up a fresh impression. Notice how your feelings change very subtly as you enter your place. What do you notice about this change? Get a second opinion If you have a hard time sensing your work area objectively, get a second opinion. Grab a coworker who has a fairly different work area than yours, and invite him/her to sit down at your desk. Ask him/her how it feels to enter and to sit in your work area. Get several opinions if you like. Have some fun with your co-workers, and hop from desk to desk to see how each person’s work area feels. Sit in each chair and imagine what it would be like to work there for a day. Whose work area do you like best? Whose do you like least? Maybe even rate each one on a scale of 1-10. Notice how each environment makes you feel. Also notice that no two are quite the same. What’s different about the work areas you rated most highly? What did you like about them? What if you don’t like how you feel? If you realize your work area makes you feel lousy, that’s OK. Changing the way your work environment makes you feel isn’t too difficult. There’s always a way to improve it. All you really need to do is follow this simple rule: If it feels right, it is right. If you use that as your guiding principle for making changes to your work environment, there’s no need to bring in a feng shui expert. I spent a good bit of time studying feng shui and ultimately felt that this simple rule covered about 80% of what I wanted to remember. Imagine your ideal space Identify how you’d like to feel in your work area. What mental state would you consider the very best to have as your daily default? Pick two or three words to describe it. When I did this, I chose relaxed, peaceful, and focused. Now picture what kind of work environment would help to create the feelings you’ve selected, even if it doesn’t seem realistic to work in such a place. For example, if you chose to feel peaceful, what’s the most peaceful place you can imagine? Create a mental image of the ideal place for you to work. Alter your space Now take your imagined ideal space, and project it onto the reality you have to deal with. Maybe you can’t work on a mountain lake, but perhaps you can bring part of that vision into your real space. Make a list of simple changes you can make to your work area. If you’re not sure they’ll work, that’s OK. Think of these changes as experiments. If you don’t like them, you can always undo them. One by one take some time to implement these changes. Add a poster, a fountain, a candle, a plant, or some photos. After making each change, notice how your feelings change. Remember to follow the rule, “If it feels right, it is right.” If a change feels wrong or neutral, then undo it and try something else. I want to emphasize that the rule is, “If it feels right, it is right.” Note that I’m not saying, “If it looks right, it is right.” How your environment makes you feel is more important than how it looks. Commanding position The most valuable idea I got from studying feng shui was the concept of the commanding position. This is the position where you feel supported from behind (and optionally on the sides too) and open in the front. For example if your house has a mountain or hill behind it, then your home would be in the commanding position, much like a highly defensible castle. In workspace terms, the commanding position ideally means that you work facing the entrance to your work area and have a wall right behind you. The commanding position creates a feeling of security. It makes it easier to relax when you work. When you have your back to the wall and you face the entrance to your workspace, your focus is forward, and a forward focus contributes to high productivity. You never have to concern yourself with someone approaching you from behind. If part of your focus is on what’s happening behind you, you’ll be more distracted, and your productivity will suffer. I used to work with my desk against the back wall of my office, so my back was towards the door. That just seemed an efficient layout for my office. But after studying feng shui, I decided to give the commanding position a try and rearranged the furniture so that my back was to the wall and I could see the door. It made a noticeable difference even before I’d made any other changes. I felt more comfortable and relaxed. There’s something about the feeling of being supported from behind that makes it easier to work productively. If you think of the layout of a top executive’s office, it’s almost invariably in the commanding position. The person sits facing the entrance to the room. You don’t walk into an executive’s office and see their back. If you’ve never worked in the commanding position, find someone else who has their office setup this way, and go sit at their desk. Notice how different it feels versus if your back is to the entrance and you have to worry about people coming up behind you. Even if you have a door behind you with a lock, the commanding position is still better. If you make only one change to your work area, this would be the one to make. Once you’ve tried it for a few months, you’ll never want to go back. My experience Several months ago I altered my home office with the intention of creating the feelings of relaxation, peace, and focus. It wasn’t difficult to do, and I made most of the changes in the first week. I gave myself a budget of $200 for the alterations, but I spent less than half of it. I wasn’t sure these changes would make any difference, but it was worth a try — even a small increase in productivity would be worth it. When I made these changes my office was designed with functionality and efficiency in mind, so I wanted to keep those benefits while changing the way the location felt to me. Currently as I sit at my desk, I’m facing into the middle of the room, so I can see the door. On the wall behind me is a poster of a mountain forest (which further reinforces the commanding position). I count nine scented candles within reach of me, some in decorative candle holders with small rocks. The room smells of cranberry, since that’s the candle that’s burning right now. There are three plants in the room: a medium-sized one on my filing cabinet and two small bamboo plants. The bamboo plants are next to a small fountain, which creates background sounds of water splashing over rocks. Behind the fountain and bamboo plants is a small mirror, which has the visual effect of doubling their presence. Relaxing music is playing through my PC speakers (currently I’m listening to Enya’s new Amarantine CD, which is one of my favorites). There are a few decorations around the room: a small stuffed yellow bear, a dragon sculpture, a turtle sculpture, a couple stone gargoyles, a miniature zen rock garden, and a crossbow. I keep my office organized and uncluttered as well, which contributes to the feelings of relaxation, peace, and focus. When I sit down at my desk, switch on the fountain, light a candle, and put on some relaxing music, it often feels like I’m about to get a massage rather than go to work. Because the environment is so peaceful and relaxing, it’s hard for me to feel stressed or overwhelmed. I look forward to going to my office because it’s a nice place to live, not just a productive place to work. I’m sure I’ll continue improving it over the years ahead, but I’m pretty happy with the results so far. When my wife sat down at my desk after I made the initial changes, she remarked at how different it felt. In fact, she became instantly jealous. Eventually she decided to work on transforming her office too. For Christmas I gave her a fountain and some scented candles to get her started. She set them up on a corner of her desk, and even that small change gives her work area a very different feel. If you don’t like it, change it If you find yourself too often feeling stressed, overwhelmed, bored, unmotivated, frustrated, etc. at work, perhaps your environment is reinforcing is these negative states. Take those feelings as a signal to make some changes and create a more balanced and comfortable work area for yourself. A few simple changes you make today can serve you for years to come. And don’t just read about it, think about it, or talk about it. Go do it! You’ll be glad you did.
    Jul 12, 2011 720
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Last night I presented a 90–minute workshop to a group of about 60 speakers (some Toastmasters and some members of the National Speakers Association) about how to take advantage of internet and blogging technology.  I had a great time showing people what they could achieve by putting their content online, and I received a lot of positive feedback afterwards. As part of my PowerPoint presentation, I included a couple graphs.  The first one showed how my web traffic has increased over the past 12 months.  In February 2005 this site received about 86,000 visitors, and this month I’m projecting about 715,000.  That projection should be fairly accurate, since we’re already halfway through the month, and my traffic tends to be largely predictable over the course of each month now.  Even when I get a traffic spike on a certain day, it’s generally not a big percentage of overall monthly traffic. Here’s the graph showing my traffic growth for the past 12 months from Feb 2005 to Jan 2006.  The numbers on the left represent number of visitors. The only month where traffic actually went down was July 2005, but that was mainly because June saw such a big spike.  Other than that though, traffic has increased every month since the site launched in October 2004. Traffic has been growing at an average rate of about 21% per month.  If that rate continues for another 12 months, it will mean a 10x increase in traffic a year from now.  I’ve no idea what kind of increase 2006 will actually bring though.  Time will tell. Here’s a graph showing my Adsense revenue growth from Feb 2005 to Jan 2006.  The January figure is again a projection, but it should be fairly accurate.  In Feb 2005 I made $53 from Adsense — it was the first month I started using Adsense.  This month I’m projecting about $4700 from Adsense. Adsense revenue has gone up every single month, increasing at an average rate of about 50% per month.  This has held stable the past couple months as well, so it isn’t tapering off yet. That’s pretty amazing growth.  Imagine getting a 50% raise every month.  As you can imagine, I’m excited to see what happens in 2006.  The current level of income is OK, but the momentum is incredible.  This is one thing I love about being an entrepreneur.  Some people think a stable paycheck is nice, but for me it would mean giving up way too much.  I’d rather work a whole month for only $53 and be building this kind of momentum than get a flat salary month after month.  Security is worthless if you have to sacrifice growth to get it. I’ve no idea how long this rate of increase will continue.  But even a 10% ongoing monthly increase will triple the monthly revenue over the next 12 months, and a 20% increase will multiply it by 9.  Check back with me in a year to see how I’m doing. The chart above is for Adsense revenue only, not total site revenue.  I also earn income from Chitika eMiniMalls, affiliate programs, and even donations.  I didn’t chart those other sources though because they’re too recent, so I don’t have any long-term data.  But they’re already showing promise, and it looks like they’ll be fairly stable too.  If I were to include those other income sources, then the income growth rate is even better than 50% per month.  But I think it’s interesting just to look at the Adsense data.  I expect to have an easy time making six figures from this site this year. It’s interesting that the traffic growth has been 21% per month while the revenue growth has been 50%.  Adsense revenue is obviously a function of traffic, so why the difference?  Mostly I credit the difference to optimization work I’ve been doing each month, so the ads get a much higher CTR and CPM than when I first started (CPM has more than doubled).  And Google is continuing to optimize Adsense as well, so I gain the benefits of their improvements.  I think more ad dollars are flowing online too.  Advertisers absolutely love blogs.  And I’m OK with the ads because most of them are directly related to personal development.  If the ads were worthless, people wouldn’t be clicking on them. What created this traffic growth?  Word of mouth.  Nothing I’ve done directly has had as much impact as basic word of mouth.  I do virtually no marketing — my visitors do it for me.  Blogging technology certainly facilitates this effect (via feeds, pings, and trackbacks), but ultimately the growth comes from people telling other people about this site.  And for that I’m very grateful.  A referral is the best form of feedback. This is a fascinating business model.  I obviously didn’t invent it, but I’m certainly enjoying the ride.  It’s so incredibly simple, much simpler than running my games business was.  The risk is virtually nil, and there’s basically no overhead aside from web hosting (assuming you already own a computer and have internet access).  There’s no selling, no products, no customers, no order processing, no fraud, no inventory, no shipping, and no deadlines.  And yet you earn income 24/7. But what I like best about this model is that it allows me to share my best content for free, which means it will reach more people.  Not everyone is going to buy a book or CD or attend a seminar on personal development.  But anyone can benefit from a free article, and this site now has over 300 to choose from, plus 15 feature articles and 9 audio files.  All free. Thanks for helping me achieve my dreams! Edit 5:08pm: Someone asked me about bandwidth usage. In Feb 2005 this site used about 2GB of bandwidth. In Dec 2005 it used almost 200GB, so that’s a 100x increase. The audio content does require significant bandwidth, but my current hosting arrangement still gives me some room to grow. I can always offload the audio files to a separate server if needed.
    718 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Last night I presented a 90–minute workshop to a group of about 60 speakers (some Toastmasters and some members of the National Speakers Association) about how to take advantage of internet and blogging technology.  I had a great time showing people what they could achieve by putting their content online, and I received a lot of positive feedback afterwards. As part of my PowerPoint presentation, I included a couple graphs.  The first one showed how my web traffic has increased over the past 12 months.  In February 2005 this site received about 86,000 visitors, and this month I’m projecting about 715,000.  That projection should be fairly accurate, since we’re already halfway through the month, and my traffic tends to be largely predictable over the course of each month now.  Even when I get a traffic spike on a certain day, it’s generally not a big percentage of overall monthly traffic. Here’s the graph showing my traffic growth for the past 12 months from Feb 2005 to Jan 2006.  The numbers on the left represent number of visitors. The only month where traffic actually went down was July 2005, but that was mainly because June saw such a big spike.  Other than that though, traffic has increased every month since the site launched in October 2004. Traffic has been growing at an average rate of about 21% per month.  If that rate continues for another 12 months, it will mean a 10x increase in traffic a year from now.  I’ve no idea what kind of increase 2006 will actually bring though.  Time will tell. Here’s a graph showing my Adsense revenue growth from Feb 2005 to Jan 2006.  The January figure is again a projection, but it should be fairly accurate.  In Feb 2005 I made $53 from Adsense — it was the first month I started using Adsense.  This month I’m projecting about $4700 from Adsense. Adsense revenue has gone up every single month, increasing at an average rate of about 50% per month.  This has held stable the past couple months as well, so it isn’t tapering off yet. That’s pretty amazing growth.  Imagine getting a 50% raise every month.  As you can imagine, I’m excited to see what happens in 2006.  The current level of income is OK, but the momentum is incredible.  This is one thing I love about being an entrepreneur.  Some people think a stable paycheck is nice, but for me it would mean giving up way too much.  I’d rather work a whole month for only $53 and be building this kind of momentum than get a flat salary month after month.  Security is worthless if you have to sacrifice growth to get it. I’ve no idea how long this rate of increase will continue.  But even a 10% ongoing monthly increase will triple the monthly revenue over the next 12 months, and a 20% increase will multiply it by 9.  Check back with me in a year to see how I’m doing. The chart above is for Adsense revenue only, not total site revenue.  I also earn income from Chitika eMiniMalls, affiliate programs, and even donations.  I didn’t chart those other sources though because they’re too recent, so I don’t have any long-term data.  But they’re already showing promise, and it looks like they’ll be fairly stable too.  If I were to include those other income sources, then the income growth rate is even better than 50% per month.  But I think it’s interesting just to look at the Adsense data.  I expect to have an easy time making six figures from this site this year. It’s interesting that the traffic growth has been 21% per month while the revenue growth has been 50%.  Adsense revenue is obviously a function of traffic, so why the difference?  Mostly I credit the difference to optimization work I’ve been doing each month, so the ads get a much higher CTR and CPM than when I first started (CPM has more than doubled).  And Google is continuing to optimize Adsense as well, so I gain the benefits of their improvements.  I think more ad dollars are flowing online too.  Advertisers absolutely love blogs.  And I’m OK with the ads because most of them are directly related to personal development.  If the ads were worthless, people wouldn’t be clicking on them. What created this traffic growth?  Word of mouth.  Nothing I’ve done directly has had as much impact as basic word of mouth.  I do virtually no marketing — my visitors do it for me.  Blogging technology certainly facilitates this effect (via feeds, pings, and trackbacks), but ultimately the growth comes from people telling other people about this site.  And for that I’m very grateful.  A referral is the best form of feedback. This is a fascinating business model.  I obviously didn’t invent it, but I’m certainly enjoying the ride.  It’s so incredibly simple, much simpler than running my games business was.  The risk is virtually nil, and there’s basically no overhead aside from web hosting (assuming you already own a computer and have internet access).  There’s no selling, no products, no customers, no order processing, no fraud, no inventory, no shipping, and no deadlines.  And yet you earn income 24/7. But what I like best about this model is that it allows me to share my best content for free, which means it will reach more people.  Not everyone is going to buy a book or CD or attend a seminar on personal development.  But anyone can benefit from a free article, and this site now has over 300 to choose from, plus 15 feature articles and 9 audio files.  All free. Thanks for helping me achieve my dreams! Edit 5:08pm: Someone asked me about bandwidth usage. In Feb 2005 this site used about 2GB of bandwidth. In Dec 2005 it used almost 200GB, so that’s a 100x increase. The audio content does require significant bandwidth, but my current hosting arrangement still gives me some room to grow. I can always offload the audio files to a separate server if needed.
    Jul 12, 2011 718
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Risk taking is an integral part of business and life, but so few people know how to manage it properly.  The word risk has a slightly negative connotation to it — it implies danger, tension, and possible loss.  But risk also has a positive side, the chance of hitting a big win, of getting more on the back side than you invest on the front side. All risks are not equal, however.  Some risks are just plain dumb, and you should never take them.  But even in those cases, there’s usually some emotional benefit.  My city of Las Vegas thrives on such benefits.  I don’t even have to pay state taxes because the 30+ million tourists who come here each year pay them for me (Nevada has no state tax).  In fact, I got a $75 refund last year for taxes I never paid because the state had a $300 million surplus.  I actually got paid by the state just for living here.  Gamblers provide about half the state’s revenue.  All those risk takers help pay our bills.  I rather like that. But what about intelligent risks?  Those are obviously the ones where the upside outweighs the downside, at least probability-wise.  You won’t find too many of those risks in casinos. Now we all know it’s generally a bad idea to take dumb risks, where your expected outcome is negative and the potential upside is very limited.  But guess what…  It’s equally stupid to pass up an intelligent risk, where your expected outcome is positive and the potential downside is very limited. This is a concept I learned from Jay Abraham.  I had to hear it many times before it really sunk in, but when it finally did sink in, it completely transformed my thinking about risk taking. The most intelligent risks are those where the potential downside is limited, but the potential upside is virtually unlimited.  Those are the risks you should jump to take. For example, consider the optimization work I do on this web site.  Suppose I take an hour to review my stats and make some tweaks to the ad layout.  There’s a risk that my income could go down because I’ve made a mistake.  But if it’s a big mistake, I’ll catch it within a matter of days (perhaps hours) and correct it.  I can always restore the layout to its previous “good” state, so any decline is temporary.  If it’s a small mistake, I may not catch it until I review the stats again a month later.  But I’ll still detect and correct the problem, and if the problem is too small to detect, its effect on the results is negligible anyway. My worst-case downside risk for optimization work is that I’ll waste about an hour of my time, I’ll lose a little bit of money, and I’ll learn something new. But what’s the best case outcome?  The best case is huge.  I might stumble upon a new layout that permanently boosts income.  And in that case my only investment was an hour of my time. And the actual result of doing optimization work over the past year is that this year, it’s going to amount to tens of thousands of extra dollars vs. if I’d never done any testing and tweaking at all.  In the long run, what I’ve done already will produce enough gain to pay for my house.  And in total it was maybe 20 hours of work over the course of a year.  But what if I’d never risked those 20 hours and the possibility that I might temporarily mess up my income?  Methinks 20 hours for a house is a pretty good deal.  The house is probably worth about $350K today. This is the kind of risk I’d be a fool not to take.  The downside is limited and fixed, but the potential upside is wide open.  What kind of total and complete idiot would I have to be not to be willing to trade 20 hours of my time for a house? This planet has enough total and complete idiots.  Please don’t be one of them.  You will lose a lot more by missing big opportunities like this than you ever will from making mistakes. Here are some other examples of intelligent risk taking: Ask someone out on a date (worst case downside = one-time embarrassing rejection, best case upside = lifelong relationship with your soulmate) Ask for a raise or promotion (worst case downside = boss says no, best case upside = permanent raise or promotion) Start a blog (worst case downside = waste some of your time, best case upside = change your life and the world for the better) Join a new club (worst case downside = waste some of your time and quit, best case upside = lifelong friendships plus a lot of other benefits) Take a cooking class (worst case downside = waste a little time and money, best case upside = become a permanently better chef) Are you one of those people that mentally catastrophized my worst case downsides?  Like instead of a “one-time embarrassing rejection” for a date request, you thought about a stalker or a painful divorce?  If so, maybe it’s time to turn off the TV and hang out with more positive people. Most of us are pretty good at avoiding dumb risks, unless you happen to be reading this from a jail cell.  But we’re exceptionally lousy at taking intelligent risks.  The stupidest mistakes we make are errors of omission. One of the reasons I’m so gung ho about personal development is that I see such pursuits as a very intelligent risk-taking.  I might waste a lot of time reading bad books, listening to lousy audio programs, and going to lame seminars, but every once in a while, I hit a huge breakthrough that leaves me permanently changed.  Most of the books, audio programs, and seminars I devour are indeed a waste of time.  Maybe I get a temporary rah rah boost from them, but usually they’re forgotten soon afterwards.  However, those few gems that help me create permanent change make the entire pursuit worthwhile.  These gems, however, are different for everyone.  One person’s lump of coal is another person’s diamond.  So even personal recommendations don’t help that much.  It’s like a game of chance, but in the long run, the odds of success are in your favor.  This machine has a long-term payout greater than 100%. The key to intelligent risk-taking is to look far enough ahead.  When thinking about personal growth, I don’t just think a year ahead or five years ahead.  I think across the span of my whole lifetime (sometimes even thinking beyond the grave… seriously).  I ask myself, “What difference might this make over the span of the next several decades?”  Over that timespan even small changes you might make today can create huge long-term payoffs.  And the decision to do nothing today means you’re automatically denying yourself any long-term benefits.  Doing nothing isn’t neutral.  Doing nothing is way, way negative. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to install good habits.  In the short-term, it’s a struggle, often a painful one.  We have to deal with disappointment again and again.  We fall flat on our faces, dust ourselves off, and throw ourselves into the ring anew, only to be pummeled once again.  And we use that same tired mantra, “This time it will be different!” — a mantra that fails 19 times out of 20. What keeps me from getting discouraged when my failures outnumber my successes is to keep thinking long-term.  I often must endure a lot of failures to hit the next big breakthrough.  So I just plow through those failures as fast as possible.  It’s like a conveyor belt — there’s a new success on that belt somewhere ahead, and the faster the belt moves, the sooner it will arrive. It’s amazing how much long-term difference just a small change you make today can make.  Just a little more self-discipline, a little more courage, a little more persistence, a little more enthusiasm — these can produce huge gains in the long run. Take a look at the second graph from yesterday’s blog post on my 2005 traffic and Adsense revenue growth.  That was my income from this web site.  Notice how flat it is during the first four months.  This is the point where most people give up.  Personal growth is often flat in the beginning.  The gains are there, but they’re just too small to see. Do NOT give up during the flat period! The flat period is the hardest because you’re working hard and getting very little to show for it.  Maybe you keep working on your social skills but can’t seem to get a date to save your life.  Maybe you keep working on your internet skills but still can’t figure out how to make your own web site.  Maybe you start a new business and just can’t seem to get anything going. That’s life.  Give yourself permission to work hard and have little to show for it, as long as you intelligently hold a positive long-term outlook. I’ve been working hard on this business for 15–1/2 months now, but it still generates less income for me than what I could get if I went out and got a job working as a computer programmer.  There’ve been a lot of people in my life who didn’t understand my long-term thinking.  I’m sure many of my decisions look really dumb if you only project a month or a year ahead.  I’ve seen more than one person write about me, “Steve is either really smart or really dumb.”  The reality is simply that I have a very long time perspective.  Later this year I’ll be doing some things that I guarantee will look incredibly stupid from a traditional business perspective, but when I consider what those seeds will likely produce over the next several decades, the outlook is simply amazing. I have to deal with the same negative criticism and lack of support that everyone else does.  It amuses me that one of my extended family members still wanted me to go out and get a job last year, since she felt it would make me more money in the short term.  I basically write her off as clueless — it’s not hard to do this when I look at her lifelong results from pursuing the strategy of short-term thinking and fear of risk taking. Short-term thinking and risk aversion dominate this planet.  A person like me who embraces intelligent risk and thinks decades ahead doesn’t fit in very well here.  That was a bit of a problem for me when I was younger, but now I just embrace it.  It’s simply who I am.  I get all the support I need from my connection to my purpose and from feeling a sense that I’m working to serve the highest good of all.  The whole world could turn against me, and it wouldn’t make me want to give up.  It would probably just inflame me more.  I never get discouraged because I believe my approach to life will produce some amazing results in the long run.  It’s only a matter of time. Love is more powerful than fear.  I overcome fear of risk by tapping ever more deeply into what I love most.  The thought of taking a risk produces excitement instead of anxiety. Find an intelligent risk you can take today.  Most likely it won’t pan out.  But what if it does?  Celebrate either way because no matter what the outcome, you’ll gain courage just by making the attempt.
    1138 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Risk taking is an integral part of business and life, but so few people know how to manage it properly.  The word risk has a slightly negative connotation to it — it implies danger, tension, and possible loss.  But risk also has a positive side, the chance of hitting a big win, of getting more on the back side than you invest on the front side. All risks are not equal, however.  Some risks are just plain dumb, and you should never take them.  But even in those cases, there’s usually some emotional benefit.  My city of Las Vegas thrives on such benefits.  I don’t even have to pay state taxes because the 30+ million tourists who come here each year pay them for me (Nevada has no state tax).  In fact, I got a $75 refund last year for taxes I never paid because the state had a $300 million surplus.  I actually got paid by the state just for living here.  Gamblers provide about half the state’s revenue.  All those risk takers help pay our bills.  I rather like that. But what about intelligent risks?  Those are obviously the ones where the upside outweighs the downside, at least probability-wise.  You won’t find too many of those risks in casinos. Now we all know it’s generally a bad idea to take dumb risks, where your expected outcome is negative and the potential upside is very limited.  But guess what…  It’s equally stupid to pass up an intelligent risk, where your expected outcome is positive and the potential downside is very limited. This is a concept I learned from Jay Abraham.  I had to hear it many times before it really sunk in, but when it finally did sink in, it completely transformed my thinking about risk taking. The most intelligent risks are those where the potential downside is limited, but the potential upside is virtually unlimited.  Those are the risks you should jump to take. For example, consider the optimization work I do on this web site.  Suppose I take an hour to review my stats and make some tweaks to the ad layout.  There’s a risk that my income could go down because I’ve made a mistake.  But if it’s a big mistake, I’ll catch it within a matter of days (perhaps hours) and correct it.  I can always restore the layout to its previous “good” state, so any decline is temporary.  If it’s a small mistake, I may not catch it until I review the stats again a month later.  But I’ll still detect and correct the problem, and if the problem is too small to detect, its effect on the results is negligible anyway. My worst-case downside risk for optimization work is that I’ll waste about an hour of my time, I’ll lose a little bit of money, and I’ll learn something new. But what’s the best case outcome?  The best case is huge.  I might stumble upon a new layout that permanently boosts income.  And in that case my only investment was an hour of my time. And the actual result of doing optimization work over the past year is that this year, it’s going to amount to tens of thousands of extra dollars vs. if I’d never done any testing and tweaking at all.  In the long run, what I’ve done already will produce enough gain to pay for my house.  And in total it was maybe 20 hours of work over the course of a year.  But what if I’d never risked those 20 hours and the possibility that I might temporarily mess up my income?  Methinks 20 hours for a house is a pretty good deal.  The house is probably worth about $350K today. This is the kind of risk I’d be a fool not to take.  The downside is limited and fixed, but the potential upside is wide open.  What kind of total and complete idiot would I have to be not to be willing to trade 20 hours of my time for a house? This planet has enough total and complete idiots.  Please don’t be one of them.  You will lose a lot more by missing big opportunities like this than you ever will from making mistakes. Here are some other examples of intelligent risk taking: Ask someone out on a date (worst case downside = one-time embarrassing rejection, best case upside = lifelong relationship with your soulmate) Ask for a raise or promotion (worst case downside = boss says no, best case upside = permanent raise or promotion) Start a blog (worst case downside = waste some of your time, best case upside = change your life and the world for the better) Join a new club (worst case downside = waste some of your time and quit, best case upside = lifelong friendships plus a lot of other benefits) Take a cooking class (worst case downside = waste a little time and money, best case upside = become a permanently better chef) Are you one of those people that mentally catastrophized my worst case downsides?  Like instead of a “one-time embarrassing rejection” for a date request, you thought about a stalker or a painful divorce?  If so, maybe it’s time to turn off the TV and hang out with more positive people. Most of us are pretty good at avoiding dumb risks, unless you happen to be reading this from a jail cell.  But we’re exceptionally lousy at taking intelligent risks.  The stupidest mistakes we make are errors of omission. One of the reasons I’m so gung ho about personal development is that I see such pursuits as a very intelligent risk-taking.  I might waste a lot of time reading bad books, listening to lousy audio programs, and going to lame seminars, but every once in a while, I hit a huge breakthrough that leaves me permanently changed.  Most of the books, audio programs, and seminars I devour are indeed a waste of time.  Maybe I get a temporary rah rah boost from them, but usually they’re forgotten soon afterwards.  However, those few gems that help me create permanent change make the entire pursuit worthwhile.  These gems, however, are different for everyone.  One person’s lump of coal is another person’s diamond.  So even personal recommendations don’t help that much.  It’s like a game of chance, but in the long run, the odds of success are in your favor.  This machine has a long-term payout greater than 100%. The key to intelligent risk-taking is to look far enough ahead.  When thinking about personal growth, I don’t just think a year ahead or five years ahead.  I think across the span of my whole lifetime (sometimes even thinking beyond the grave… seriously).  I ask myself, “What difference might this make over the span of the next several decades?”  Over that timespan even small changes you might make today can create huge long-term payoffs.  And the decision to do nothing today means you’re automatically denying yourself any long-term benefits.  Doing nothing isn’t neutral.  Doing nothing is way, way negative. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to install good habits.  In the short-term, it’s a struggle, often a painful one.  We have to deal with disappointment again and again.  We fall flat on our faces, dust ourselves off, and throw ourselves into the ring anew, only to be pummeled once again.  And we use that same tired mantra, “This time it will be different!” — a mantra that fails 19 times out of 20. What keeps me from getting discouraged when my failures outnumber my successes is to keep thinking long-term.  I often must endure a lot of failures to hit the next big breakthrough.  So I just plow through those failures as fast as possible.  It’s like a conveyor belt — there’s a new success on that belt somewhere ahead, and the faster the belt moves, the sooner it will arrive. It’s amazing how much long-term difference just a small change you make today can make.  Just a little more self-discipline, a little more courage, a little more persistence, a little more enthusiasm — these can produce huge gains in the long run. Take a look at the second graph from yesterday’s blog post on my 2005 traffic and Adsense revenue growth.  That was my income from this web site.  Notice how flat it is during the first four months.  This is the point where most people give up.  Personal growth is often flat in the beginning.  The gains are there, but they’re just too small to see. Do NOT give up during the flat period! The flat period is the hardest because you’re working hard and getting very little to show for it.  Maybe you keep working on your social skills but can’t seem to get a date to save your life.  Maybe you keep working on your internet skills but still can’t figure out how to make your own web site.  Maybe you start a new business and just can’t seem to get anything going. That’s life.  Give yourself permission to work hard and have little to show for it, as long as you intelligently hold a positive long-term outlook. I’ve been working hard on this business for 15–1/2 months now, but it still generates less income for me than what I could get if I went out and got a job working as a computer programmer.  There’ve been a lot of people in my life who didn’t understand my long-term thinking.  I’m sure many of my decisions look really dumb if you only project a month or a year ahead.  I’ve seen more than one person write about me, “Steve is either really smart or really dumb.”  The reality is simply that I have a very long time perspective.  Later this year I’ll be doing some things that I guarantee will look incredibly stupid from a traditional business perspective, but when I consider what those seeds will likely produce over the next several decades, the outlook is simply amazing. I have to deal with the same negative criticism and lack of support that everyone else does.  It amuses me that one of my extended family members still wanted me to go out and get a job last year, since she felt it would make me more money in the short term.  I basically write her off as clueless — it’s not hard to do this when I look at her lifelong results from pursuing the strategy of short-term thinking and fear of risk taking. Short-term thinking and risk aversion dominate this planet.  A person like me who embraces intelligent risk and thinks decades ahead doesn’t fit in very well here.  That was a bit of a problem for me when I was younger, but now I just embrace it.  It’s simply who I am.  I get all the support I need from my connection to my purpose and from feeling a sense that I’m working to serve the highest good of all.  The whole world could turn against me, and it wouldn’t make me want to give up.  It would probably just inflame me more.  I never get discouraged because I believe my approach to life will produce some amazing results in the long run.  It’s only a matter of time. Love is more powerful than fear.  I overcome fear of risk by tapping ever more deeply into what I love most.  The thought of taking a risk produces excitement instead of anxiety. Find an intelligent risk you can take today.  Most likely it won’t pan out.  But what if it does?  Celebrate either way because no matter what the outcome, you’ll gain courage just by making the attempt.
    Jul 12, 2011 1138
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Since posting my 2005 traffic figures recently, I’ve received many questions about how I was able to start this web site from scratch and build its traffic to over 700,000 visitors per month (Jan 2006 projection) in about 15 months — without spending any money on marketing or promotion.  Building a high-traffic web site was my intention from the very beginning, so I don’t think this result was accidental. My traffic-building strategy isn’t based on tricks or techniques that will go out of style.  It’s mainly about providing genuine value and letting word of mouth do the rest.  Sadly, this makes me something of a contrarian today, since I happen to disagree with much of what I’ve seen written about traffic-building elsewhere.  I do virtually no marketing for this site at all.  My visitors do it for me, not because I trick them into doing it but simply because they want to. Here are 10 of my best suggestions for building a high traffic web site: 1. Create valuable content. Is your content worthy of being read by millions of people?  Remember that the purpose of content is to provide value to others.  Do you provide genuine value, and is it the best you’re capable of providing? When I sit down to write, I sometimes imagine myself standing on an outdoor concert stage before an audience of a million people.  Then I ask myself, “What shall I say to this audience of fellow human beings?”  If a million people each spend five minutes on this site, that’s nearly 10 person-years total.  I do my best to make my writing worthy of this differential.  I don’t always succeed, but this is the mindset that helps me create strong content. Think about the effect you want your writing to have on people.  Since I write about personal growth, I want my writing to change people for the better.  I want to expand people’s thinking, to raise their consciousness, and to help them eliminate fear from their lives.  If my writing doesn’t change people’s thinking, actions, or awareness, then my value isn’t being transferred well enough. When you focus on providing real value instead of churning out disposable content, your readers will notice.  And they’ll refer others to your site — in droves.  I typically see at least 10 new links to my site appearing each day (mostly via trackbacks but also via vanity feeds).  I’m not going out and requesting those links — other bloggers just provide them, usually because they’re commenting on something I’ve written.  Many fellow bloggers have also honored StevePavlina.com with a general recommendation for the entire site, not just links to my individual blog posts.  It’s wonderful to see that kind of feedback. Strong content is universally valued.  It’s hard work to create it, but in the long run it generates lots of long-term referral traffic.  I’d rather write one article I’m really proud of than 25 smaller posts.  It’s been my experience that the best articles I write will outperform all the forgettable little posts I’ve made.  Quality is more important than quantity.  Quantity without quality, however, is easier, which is one reason so many people use that strategy.  Ultimately, however, the Internet already contains more quantity than any one of us can absorb in our lifetimes, but there will always be a place for good quality content that stands out from the crowd. If you have nothing of genuine value to offer to a large audience, then you have no need of a high-traffic web site.  And if there’s no need for it, you probably won’t get it.  Each time you write, focus on creating the best content you can.  You’ll get better as you go along, but always do your best.  I’ve written some 2000–word articles and then deleted them without posting them because I didn’t feel they were good enough. 2. Create original content. Virtually everything on this site is my own original content.  I rarely post blog entries that merely link to what others are writing.  It takes more effort to produce original content, but it’s my preferred long-term strategy.  I have no interest in creating a personal development portal to other sites.  I want this site to be a final destination, not a middleman. Consequently, when people arrive here, they often stick around for a while.  Chances are good that if you like one of my articles, you may enjoy others.  This site now has hundreds of them to choose from.  You can visit the articles section to read my (longer) feature articles or the blog archives to see an easy-to-navigate list of all my blog entries since the site launched. Yes, there’s a lot to read on this site, more than most people can read in a day, but there’s also a lot of value (see rule #1).  Some people have told me they’ve read for many hours straight, and they leave as different people.  I think anyone who reads this site for several hours straight is going to experience a shift in awareness.  When you read a lot of dense, original content from a single person, it’s going to have an impact on you.  And this content is written with the intention to help you grow. Although I’m not big on competing with others, it’s hard to compete with an original content site.  Anyone can start their own personal development web site, but the flavor of this site is unique simply because no one else has had the exact same experiences as me. While I think sites that mainly post content from others have the potential to build traffic faster in the beginning, I think original content sites have an easier time keeping their traffic, which makes for a more solid, long-term foundation.  Not everyone is going to like my work, but for those that do, there’s no substitute. 3. Create timeless content. While I do occasionally write about time-bound events, the majority of my content is intended to be timeless.  I’m aware that anything I write today may still be read by people even after I’m dead.  People still quote Aristotle today because his ideas have timeless value, even though he’s been dead for about 2300 years.  I think about how my work might influence future generations in addition to my own.  What advice shall I pass on to my great grandchildren? I tend to ignore fads and current events in my writing.  Wars, natural disasters, and corrupt politicians have been with us for thousands of years.  There are plenty of others who are compelled to write about those things, so I’ll leave that coverage to them. Will the content you’re creating today still be providing real value in the year 2010?  2100?  4000? Writing for future generations helps me cut through the fluff and stay focused on the core of my message, which is to help people grow.  As long as there are people (even if our bodies are no longer strictly biological), there will be the opportunity for growth, so there’s a chance that at least some of what I’m creating today will still have relevance.  And if I can write something that will be relevant to future generations, then it will certainly be relevant and meaningful today. In terms of traffic building, timeless content connects with people at a deeper level than time-bound content.  The latter is meant to be forgotten, while the former is meant to be remembered.  We forget yesterday’s news, but we remember those things that have meaning to us.  So I strive to write about meanings instead of happenings. Even though we’re conditioned to believe that news and current events are important, in the grand scheme of things, most of what’s covered by the media is trivial and irrelevant.  Very little of today’s news will even be remembered next week, let alone a hundred years from now.  Certainly some events are important, but at least 99% of what the media covers is irrelevant fluff when viewed against the backdrop of human history. Ignore the fluff, and focus on building something with the potential to endure.  Write for your children and grandchildren. 4. Write for human beings first, computers second. A lot has been written about the optimal strategies for strong search engine rankings in terms of posting frequency and post length.  But I largely ignore that advice because I write for human beings, not computers. I write when I have something meaningful to say, and I write as much as it takes to say it.  On average I post about five times per week, but I have no set quota.  I also write much longer entries than most bloggers.  No one has ever accused me of being too brief.  My typical blog entry is about 1500–2000 words, and some (like this one) are much longer.  Many successful bloggers would recommend I write shorter entries (250–750 words) and post more frequently (20x per week), since that creates more search engine seeds for the same amount of writing.  And while I agree with them that such a strategy would generate more search engine traffic, I’m not going to take their advice.  To do so would interfere too much with my strategy of delivering genuine value and creating timeless content.  I have no interest in cranking out small chunks of disposable content just to please a computer.  Anyone can print out an article to read later if they don’t have time to read it now and if the subject is of genuine interest to them.  Part of the reason I write longer articles is that even though fewer people will take the time to read them, for those that do the articles are usually much more impactful. Because of these decisions, my search engine traffic is fairly low compared to other bloggers.  Google is my #1 referrer, but it accounts for less than 1.5% of my total traffic.  My traffic is extremely decentralized.  The vast majority of it comes from links on thousands of other web sites and from direct requests.  Ultimately, my traffic grows because people tell other people about this site, either online or offline.  I’ve also done very well with social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, digg.com, and reddit.com because they’re based on personal recommendations.  I’ve probably had about a dozen articles hit the del.icio.us popular list within the past year, definitely more than my fair share. I prefer this traffic-building strategy because it leaves me less vulnerable to shifts in technology.  I figure that Google ultimately wants to make it easy for its visitors to find valuable content, so my current strategy should be in alignment with Google’s long-term strategy.  My feeling is that Google would be well-served by sending more of its traffic here.  But that alignment simply arises from my focus on providing value first and foremost. 5. Know why you want a high-traffic site. I write because my purpose in life is to help people become more conscious and aware — to grow as human beings.  I don’t have a separate job or career other than this.  Because my work is driven by this purpose, I have a compelling reason to build a high-traffic web site, one that aligns with my deepest personal values.  More web traffic means I can have a bigger impact by reaching more people.  And over the course of the next few decades, this influence has the potential to create a positive change that might alter the future direction of human civilization.  Most significantly, I want to help humanity move past fear and for us to stop relating to each other through the mechanisms of fear.  If I fail, I fail.  But I’m not giving up no matter how tough it gets. Those are big stakes, and it might sound like I’m exaggerating, but this is the level at which I think about my work today.  Everything else I do, including building a high traffic web site, is simply a means to that end.  Today I’m just planting seeds, and most of them haven’t even sprouted yet.  A high traffic web site is just one of the sprouts that came about as a result of pursuing the purpose that drives me.  But it is not an end in itself. What will you do if you succeed in building a high-traffic web site?  If you someday find yourself in the privileged position of being able to influence millions of people, what will you say to them?  Will you honor and respect this position by using it as a channel to serve the highest good of all, or will you throw that opportunity away to pursue your own fleeting fame and fortune while feeding your audience disposable drivel? Although I launched this web site in October 2004, I’ve been writing articles since 1999, and feedback has allowed me to understand how small slices of my writing have affected certain people in the long run.  After reading something I’ve written, people have quit their jobs, started their own businesses, changed religions, and ended relationships.  While some people might find this level of impact ego-gratifying, for me it intensifies my feeling of personal responsibility for my writing.  I’ve seen that I’m able to have an impact on people, so I damned well better make it a good one. This “why” is what drives me.  It’s what compels me to go to my computer and write something at 3am and not stop until 10am.  I get inspired often.  The #1 reason I want more traffic is that it will allow me to help more people.  That’s where I direct my ambition for this site, and consequently I’m extremely motivated, which certainly plays a key role in taking action. 6. Let your audience see the real you. My life and my writing are intricately intertwined, such that it’s impossible to separate the two.  When someone reads this web site, they’ll eventually come to know a great deal about me as a person.  Usually this creates a skewed and inaccurate impression of who I am today because I change a lot over time — I’m not the same person I was last year — but it’s close enough.  Getting to know me makes it easier for people to understand the context of what I write, which means that more value can be transferred in less time. I’ve told many personal stories on this site, including my most painful and difficult experiences.  I don’t do this to be gratuitous but rather because those stories help make a point — that no matter where you find yourself today, you always have the opportunity to grow in some small way, and no matter how small those changes are, they’re going to add up over time to create massive lifelong growth.  That’s a lesson we all need to remember. When I find ways to turn some of my darkest experiences into lessons that might help others in similar situations, it actually transforms those painful memories into joyful ones.  They take on new meaning for me, and I can see that there was a positive reason I had to endure such experiences, one that ultimately serves the highest good of all.  Oddly, I now find that it was my darkest times that help create the most light for others. With respect to privacy, I don’t really care much for it.  I do respect other people’s right to privacy, so when people tell me personal stories via email, I don’t turn around and re-post them to my blog.  But I’m OK with being rather un-private myself.  The need for privacy comes from the desire to protect the ego, which is a fear-driven desire, and fear is something I just don’t need in my life.  My attitude is that it’s perfectly OK to fail or to be rejected publicly.  Trying to appear perfect is nothing but a house of cards that will eventually collapse. I think allowing people to know the real me makes it possible to build a relationship with my audience that’s based on intimacy and friendship.  I dislike seeing people putting me on too much of a pedestal and using labels like “guru” or “overachiever.”  Such labels create distance which makes communication harder.  They emphasize our differences instead of our similarities.  Communication between equals — between friends — is more effective. More genuine communication means better connections with your audience, which means more repeat traffic and more referral traffic.  This isn’t a manipulative game though, and excessive or overly dramatic self-disclosure for the purpose of linkbaiting will only backfire.  Your reasons for storytelling must be to benefit your audience.  The traffic benefits are a positive side effect. 7. Write what is true for you, and learn to live with the consequences. If the stuff I’ve written on this site means I’ll never be able to run for a political office, I can live with that.  I’m willing to write what is true for me, even if it goes against my social conditioning.  Being honest is more important to me than being popular.  But the irony is that because bold honesty is so rare among civilized humans, in the long run this may be the best traffic-building strategy of all. People often warn me not to write things that might alienate a portion of my visitors.  But somehow I keep doing the opposite and seeing traffic go up, not down.  I don’t treat any subjects as taboo or sacred if they’re relevant to personal growth, and that includes diet and religion.  It’s no secret that I’m a vegan ex-Catholic.  Do I alienate people when I say that torturing and killing defenseless animals for food is wrong?  Perhaps.  But truth is truth.  I happen to think it’s a bad idea to feed cows cement dust and bovine growth hormone, to pack live chickens into warehouses where the ammonia from their feces is strong enough to burn their skin off, and to feed 70% of our grain to livestock while tens of thousands of people die of hunger each day.  I also think it’s a bad idea to pay people to perform these actions on my behalf.  It really doesn’t matter to me that 999 people out of 1000 disagree with me.  Your disagreement with me doesn’t change what went into producing your burger.  It’s still a diseased, tortured, chemical-injected cow, one that was doomed to a very sad life because of a decision you made.  And you’re still responsible for your role in that cow’s suffering whether you like it or not. That last paragraph is a good example of the kind of stuff I write that makes people want to put me in a cage, inject me with hormones, and feed me cement dust.  It wouldn’t surprise me terribly if that ends up being my fate. I write what is true for me, regardless of public opinion.  Sometimes I’m in the majority; sometimes I’m not.  I’m fully aware that some of my opinions are unpopular, and I’m absolutely fine with that.  What I’m not fine with is putting truth to a vote. I take the time to form my own opinions instead of simply regurgitating what I was taught as a child.  And I’m also well aware that there are people spending billions of dollars to make you think that a burger is not a very sad, diseased, tortured, chemical-injected cow.  But I’m going to keep writing to help you remain aware of things like that, even though you may hate me for it.  That defensiveness eventually leads to doubt, which leads to change and growth, so it’s perfectly fine.  I’m good at dealing with defensiveness. I don’t worry too much about hurting people’s feelings.  Hurt feelings are a step in the right direction for many people.  If I’m able to offend you so easily, to me that means you already recognize some truth in what I’ve written, but you aren’t ready to face it consciously yet.  If you read something from me that provokes an emotional reaction, then a seed has already been planted.  In other words, it’s already too late for you.  My goal isn’t to convince anyone of anything in particular.  I’m not an animal rights activist, and I don’t have a religion to promote.  My goal is to awaken people to living more consciously.  This requires raising people’s awareness across all facets of their lives, so they can make the big decisions for themselves.  It requires breaking social conditioning and replacing it with conscious awareness and intention.  That’s a big job, but someone has to do it.  And if I don’t do it, then I have to admit I’m just part of the problem like all the other hibernating bears. A lot has been written about the importance of transparency in blogging, and truth is the best transparency of all.  Truth creates trust, and trust builds traffic.  No games, no gimmicks… just plain old brutal honesty.  Even the people that say they hate you will still come back, and eventually those people will become your most ardent supporters.  Even if they don’t agree with you, they’ll learn they can trust you and that your intentions are honorable, and trust is more important than agreement. 8. Treat your visitors like real human beings. Even though I’m sitting at my computer writing this, seemingly alone, I know you’re a real human being reading it on the other end.  My apologies to sentient androids who may be reading this years after it’s been written.  You aren’t just a number in my web stats.  Despite the technology involved and the time-space differential between my writing and your reading, there’s still a human-to-human connection between us that transcends time and space.  And that connection matters to me.  I feel its presence whenever I do my best writing. While I imagine being on a stage in front of a million people when deciding which topic to write about, once I actually get going, I imagine having a one-on-one conversation with a friend.  This means revealing some of myself and being honest, as the last two points already addressed, but it also means genuinely caring about you as a person.  And that’s perhaps one of the best kept secrets of my success as a blogger.  I actually care about helping you grow.  I want you to become more conscious and aware.  I want you to experience less fear in your life.  And my concern for your well-being isn’t conditional upon you liking me. I happen to think we have a lot more similarities than differences.  Based on what I know about myself, I imagine you’d like your life to be better tomorrow than it was yesterday.  I imagine you’d like to be happier, more fulfilled, and more at peace with yourself.  I also imagine you’re living below your potential and could use some help overcoming fear and solving certain problems to enable you to tap more of that potential.  And finally, I imagine you wouldn’t believe me if I said you can have it all for only $19.95 (as well you shouldn’t). The reason I work so hard to create original content and then give it away for free is because I want to help as many people as possible.  I genuinely care what happens to this beautiful planet and to the people who live here.  It’s possible I actually value your life even more than you do.  This is the kind of motivation that never wanes.  I sometimes lose sight of it when I get caught up in the details, but the connection is always there, waiting for me to tap into it whenever I want.  This provides me with a wellspring of creative ideas and an inexhaustible passion for contribution. I don’t need to play stupid marketing and sales games with you.  There’s nothing for you to buy here.  Even if I add some products in the future, I’m not going to try to manipulate you into buying something you don’t need with a slew of false promises.  I might make more money in the short-term by doing that, but it would sever our genuine connection, create a wall between us, and reduce the level of impact I’m able to have.  Ultimately, that approach would lead to failure for me, at least in terms of how I define success.  I can’t help you grow if I violate your trust. I cannot force anyone to grow who doesn’t want to.  But there are a lot of people on this planet who are now ready to let go of low-awareness living and start pushing themselves to the next level of human existence.  And they need help to get there because it’s a difficult journey, and there are strong forces working against it. Real human beings helping real human beings is ultimately what traffic growth is all about.  That’s precisely what a link or a referral is.  If you align yourself with the intention of genuinely helping people because you care, you’ll soon find yourself with an abundance of traffic. 9. Keep money in its proper place. Money is important.  Obviously I have bills to pay.  Money pays for my computer, my high-speed internet connection, my house, and my food.  I just returned yesterday from a vacation that money paid for.  My wife and I had a great time partly because we didn’t have to worry about money at all on the trip.  We did everything we wanted to do without being hampered by a lack of funds.  And this web site paid for it. It’s important that I generate some money from my work, but it’s not necessary that I extract every possible dollar.  In fact, relative to its traffic levels, I’m seriously under-monetizing this site.  But money is only a means to an end, not an end in itself.  Making a positive contribution to the world is a lot more important to me than money.  Money can be useful in achieving this objective, but human relationships are far more important.  The funny thing is that the less I rely on money, the more of it I seem to have. I’m already making more money than I need to pay my bills, and my income from this site keeps going up each month.  If I simply keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll probably end up becoming fairly wealthy.  But money is an extremely weak motivator for me.  Very little of what I do today has a profit motive behind it except to the extent that money will fuel more important goals.  That tends to confuse certain people because some of my decisions align with earning money, but many don’t.  While I do consider myself an entrepreneur (at least it’s less isolating than “guru”), I only see money as a tool for enhancing and expanding my contribution. While many entrepreneurs pursue money for the purpose of becoming wealthy, I chose a different route.  I sought to earn money for the purpose of increasing my freedom.  I don’t want to get myself stuck in a pattern of working for money, so I’m constantly turning down opportunities to make money that would restrict my freedom.  For example, I don’t do any consulting or coaching.  Consequently, my calendar contains very few fixed appointments.  This doesn’t mean I’m idle.  It just means I spend my time doing what I freely choose to do instead of what others would have me do.  I require this level of flexibility to do my best work. By paying close attention to how I earn money and not just how much I earn, I keep money in its proper place.  This allows me to stay focused on my purpose without getting wrapped up in less important concerns like building a brand, closing sales, or doing phony marketing. I dislike it when other people use one-dimensional sales and marketing tactics on me, so I avoid using these techniques on this site.  I’ve sort of unplugged myself from the current capitalistic system and set up a side system of my own that I find much more congruent with conscious living.  I would love for other people to have the same level of freedom I enjoy each day.  I’m sure I’ll continue to improve my approach over time, but it’s working wonderfully so far.  Imagine having a business with no products, no inventory, no sales, and no customers, but still generating an abundant positive cashflow. Since the income generation is largely on autopilot, I can focus my time and energy on creating content instead of on doing marketing or trying to sell something.  And being able to devote so much time to content creation without worrying how I’ll pay my bills makes it a lot easier to build high traffic. Some business models make it very challenging to build traffic.  You have to spend a lot of time and energy just on lead generation, and then maybe you try to monetize those leads by selling a product or service.  It’s always an uphill struggle. I give all my best content away for free.  Word of mouth does the rest.  So my traffic building strategy is more like flowing downstream.  It hasn’t been a struggle for me at all.  And once you have sufficient traffic, it isn’t that hard to monetize it without becoming an ogre. We’ve all heard the expression, “Build a better mousetrap, and they’ll come.”  And we’ve also heard marketing and sales people say that this is just plain wrong — you have to market and sell that mousetrap effectively too.  I say they’re all wrong.  My approach is the equivalent of, “Build a better mousetrap and give it away for free, and they’ll come — and they’ll bring friends too.” 10. If you forget the first nine suggestions, just focus on genuinely helping people, and the rest will take care of itself. One thing that turns me off about typical self-help marketing is that authors and speakers often position themselves as if they’re the opposite of their audience.  I’m successful and you’re not.  I’m rich and you’re not.  I’m fit and you’re not.  You need me because something is lacking in your life, I have exactly what you lack, and if you pay me (and make me even richer and you poorer), I’ll show you how you can have it too.  And if it doesn’t work for you, it just means you’re even more of an idiot than the people who provided my testimonials. I’m sure you’ve heard this sort of nonsense many times before. All of this I’ve-arrived-and-you-haven’t stuff is stupid.  It suggests that life is about destinations and that once you’ve arrived, you’re done growing and can just relax and sip fruity drinks for the rest of your life.  But there’s more to life than border crossings.  If you go from single to married or from non-millionaire to millionaire, that’s fine and dandy.  Crossing the border into parenthood was a big one for me.  But that’s only one day of my life, and to be honest, I didn’t have much control over it except for a decision made nine-months earlier (and it seemed like a pretty attractive idea at the time).  What about all those other days though? Growing as a human being is something I work on daily.  I’m deeply passionate about my own growth, so naturally I want to share this part of the journey with others.  If I start marketing myself with the “I’m successful and you’re not approach,” I hope someone will come put me out of my misery, since that would mean I’m done growing and ready to die.  I don’t expect to ever be done growing as long as I exist as a human being.  There are always new distinctions to be made and new experiences to enjoy.  And yes… plenty of mistakes to be made as well. One of the great benefits of focusing on helping others is that it gets fear out of the way.  Without fear you become free to just be yourself.  You’re able to take intelligent risks and remain detached from any specific outcome because the journey is more important to you than the specific stops along the way.  Personally it’s not the destinations that excite me but rather the unfolding process of discovery.  I love the anticipation of wondering what lies around each new bend. If we are to help each other, we need to be partners in the pursuit of growth, not opponents.  So it makes no sense to put up fake walls between us.  The ego needs walls to protect it, but if we can get past the fear-based needs of the ego, we’ll make a lot more progress. There are plenty of things I could do with this site that would make me more money or grow traffic faster in the short-term, but I won’t do them because they’ll just put more distance between us.  I’ll be on my side, you’ll be on your side, and we’ll each be slightly afraid of the other.  I’ll be worried that maybe you won’t buy what I’m selling, and you’ll be worried about getting ripped off or taken advantage of.  We’ll just be drinking yet another round of fear, which is exactly the opposite of what we need to grow. One of my biggest challenges in life right now is figuring out how to help enough people switch their primary polarization from fear to love.  Our emotions are an energy source for us (they drive our actions), and most of the world is still driven by fear energy.  Watching TV news is a good example; we can actually feel energized by watching others suffer.  Hurting animals is another example; we eat their fear for breakfast.  But there’s another fuel for human consciousness, and perhaps the best way to describe it is unconditional love.  This isn’t the squishy emotion of romantic love — it’s a sense of connection to everything that exists and a desire to serve the highest good of all.  Unconditional love, when it becomes one’s primary fuel, cultivates fearlessness.  In this state you still have the biological fight-or-flight response, but you aren’t driven by emotional worries like fear of failure or fear of rejection.  You feel perfectly safe regardless of external circumstances.  And when you have this feeling of unconditional safety, you’re truly free to be yourself, to embrace new experiences, and to grow at a very fast pace. Personal growth is not a zero-sum game.  If you grow as a human being, it doesn’t harm me.  In fact, ultimately if all of us grow as individuals, it’s going to make this whole planet better for everyone.  When enough people switch their primary polarization from fear to unconditional love, this planet will become a true paradise.  That’s a good thing for all of us, one that’s more important than all the money in the world. Perhaps you have a less ambitious goal for building web traffic than raising human consciousness and working towards world peace.  That doesn’t matter.  You can still make helping others your primary focus, and if you do that, you’ll find it relatively easy to build a high-traffic web site.  If you align yourself with serving the highest good of all, you’ll receive plenty of help along the way, and best of all, you’ll deserve it. Do your best to help your visitors out of genuine concern for their well-being, and they’ll help you build your traffic and even generate a nice income from it.  It’s as simple as that. Final thoughts Building a high-traffic website can be very challenging if you’ve never done it before. These tips really only scratch the surface of what you need to know to succeed. Since writing this article, I found an alternative suggestion for those who find it difficult to build substantial traffic and income online. Please check out Build Your Own Successful Online Business for details.
    1328 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Since posting my 2005 traffic figures recently, I’ve received many questions about how I was able to start this web site from scratch and build its traffic to over 700,000 visitors per month (Jan 2006 projection) in about 15 months — without spending any money on marketing or promotion.  Building a high-traffic web site was my intention from the very beginning, so I don’t think this result was accidental. My traffic-building strategy isn’t based on tricks or techniques that will go out of style.  It’s mainly about providing genuine value and letting word of mouth do the rest.  Sadly, this makes me something of a contrarian today, since I happen to disagree with much of what I’ve seen written about traffic-building elsewhere.  I do virtually no marketing for this site at all.  My visitors do it for me, not because I trick them into doing it but simply because they want to. Here are 10 of my best suggestions for building a high traffic web site: 1. Create valuable content. Is your content worthy of being read by millions of people?  Remember that the purpose of content is to provide value to others.  Do you provide genuine value, and is it the best you’re capable of providing? When I sit down to write, I sometimes imagine myself standing on an outdoor concert stage before an audience of a million people.  Then I ask myself, “What shall I say to this audience of fellow human beings?”  If a million people each spend five minutes on this site, that’s nearly 10 person-years total.  I do my best to make my writing worthy of this differential.  I don’t always succeed, but this is the mindset that helps me create strong content. Think about the effect you want your writing to have on people.  Since I write about personal growth, I want my writing to change people for the better.  I want to expand people’s thinking, to raise their consciousness, and to help them eliminate fear from their lives.  If my writing doesn’t change people’s thinking, actions, or awareness, then my value isn’t being transferred well enough. When you focus on providing real value instead of churning out disposable content, your readers will notice.  And they’ll refer others to your site — in droves.  I typically see at least 10 new links to my site appearing each day (mostly via trackbacks but also via vanity feeds).  I’m not going out and requesting those links — other bloggers just provide them, usually because they’re commenting on something I’ve written.  Many fellow bloggers have also honored StevePavlina.com with a general recommendation for the entire site, not just links to my individual blog posts.  It’s wonderful to see that kind of feedback. Strong content is universally valued.  It’s hard work to create it, but in the long run it generates lots of long-term referral traffic.  I’d rather write one article I’m really proud of than 25 smaller posts.  It’s been my experience that the best articles I write will outperform all the forgettable little posts I’ve made.  Quality is more important than quantity.  Quantity without quality, however, is easier, which is one reason so many people use that strategy.  Ultimately, however, the Internet already contains more quantity than any one of us can absorb in our lifetimes, but there will always be a place for good quality content that stands out from the crowd. If you have nothing of genuine value to offer to a large audience, then you have no need of a high-traffic web site.  And if there’s no need for it, you probably won’t get it.  Each time you write, focus on creating the best content you can.  You’ll get better as you go along, but always do your best.  I’ve written some 2000–word articles and then deleted them without posting them because I didn’t feel they were good enough. 2. Create original content. Virtually everything on this site is my own original content.  I rarely post blog entries that merely link to what others are writing.  It takes more effort to produce original content, but it’s my preferred long-term strategy.  I have no interest in creating a personal development portal to other sites.  I want this site to be a final destination, not a middleman. Consequently, when people arrive here, they often stick around for a while.  Chances are good that if you like one of my articles, you may enjoy others.  This site now has hundreds of them to choose from.  You can visit the articles section to read my (longer) feature articles or the blog archives to see an easy-to-navigate list of all my blog entries since the site launched. Yes, there’s a lot to read on this site, more than most people can read in a day, but there’s also a lot of value (see rule #1).  Some people have told me they’ve read for many hours straight, and they leave as different people.  I think anyone who reads this site for several hours straight is going to experience a shift in awareness.  When you read a lot of dense, original content from a single person, it’s going to have an impact on you.  And this content is written with the intention to help you grow. Although I’m not big on competing with others, it’s hard to compete with an original content site.  Anyone can start their own personal development web site, but the flavor of this site is unique simply because no one else has had the exact same experiences as me. While I think sites that mainly post content from others have the potential to build traffic faster in the beginning, I think original content sites have an easier time keeping their traffic, which makes for a more solid, long-term foundation.  Not everyone is going to like my work, but for those that do, there’s no substitute. 3. Create timeless content. While I do occasionally write about time-bound events, the majority of my content is intended to be timeless.  I’m aware that anything I write today may still be read by people even after I’m dead.  People still quote Aristotle today because his ideas have timeless value, even though he’s been dead for about 2300 years.  I think about how my work might influence future generations in addition to my own.  What advice shall I pass on to my great grandchildren? I tend to ignore fads and current events in my writing.  Wars, natural disasters, and corrupt politicians have been with us for thousands of years.  There are plenty of others who are compelled to write about those things, so I’ll leave that coverage to them. Will the content you’re creating today still be providing real value in the year 2010?  2100?  4000? Writing for future generations helps me cut through the fluff and stay focused on the core of my message, which is to help people grow.  As long as there are people (even if our bodies are no longer strictly biological), there will be the opportunity for growth, so there’s a chance that at least some of what I’m creating today will still have relevance.  And if I can write something that will be relevant to future generations, then it will certainly be relevant and meaningful today. In terms of traffic building, timeless content connects with people at a deeper level than time-bound content.  The latter is meant to be forgotten, while the former is meant to be remembered.  We forget yesterday’s news, but we remember those things that have meaning to us.  So I strive to write about meanings instead of happenings. Even though we’re conditioned to believe that news and current events are important, in the grand scheme of things, most of what’s covered by the media is trivial and irrelevant.  Very little of today’s news will even be remembered next week, let alone a hundred years from now.  Certainly some events are important, but at least 99% of what the media covers is irrelevant fluff when viewed against the backdrop of human history. Ignore the fluff, and focus on building something with the potential to endure.  Write for your children and grandchildren. 4. Write for human beings first, computers second. A lot has been written about the optimal strategies for strong search engine rankings in terms of posting frequency and post length.  But I largely ignore that advice because I write for human beings, not computers. I write when I have something meaningful to say, and I write as much as it takes to say it.  On average I post about five times per week, but I have no set quota.  I also write much longer entries than most bloggers.  No one has ever accused me of being too brief.  My typical blog entry is about 1500–2000 words, and some (like this one) are much longer.  Many successful bloggers would recommend I write shorter entries (250–750 words) and post more frequently (20x per week), since that creates more search engine seeds for the same amount of writing.  And while I agree with them that such a strategy would generate more search engine traffic, I’m not going to take their advice.  To do so would interfere too much with my strategy of delivering genuine value and creating timeless content.  I have no interest in cranking out small chunks of disposable content just to please a computer.  Anyone can print out an article to read later if they don’t have time to read it now and if the subject is of genuine interest to them.  Part of the reason I write longer articles is that even though fewer people will take the time to read them, for those that do the articles are usually much more impactful. Because of these decisions, my search engine traffic is fairly low compared to other bloggers.  Google is my #1 referrer, but it accounts for less than 1.5% of my total traffic.  My traffic is extremely decentralized.  The vast majority of it comes from links on thousands of other web sites and from direct requests.  Ultimately, my traffic grows because people tell other people about this site, either online or offline.  I’ve also done very well with social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, digg.com, and reddit.com because they’re based on personal recommendations.  I’ve probably had about a dozen articles hit the del.icio.us popular list within the past year, definitely more than my fair share. I prefer this traffic-building strategy because it leaves me less vulnerable to shifts in technology.  I figure that Google ultimately wants to make it easy for its visitors to find valuable content, so my current strategy should be in alignment with Google’s long-term strategy.  My feeling is that Google would be well-served by sending more of its traffic here.  But that alignment simply arises from my focus on providing value first and foremost. 5. Know why you want a high-traffic site. I write because my purpose in life is to help people become more conscious and aware — to grow as human beings.  I don’t have a separate job or career other than this.  Because my work is driven by this purpose, I have a compelling reason to build a high-traffic web site, one that aligns with my deepest personal values.  More web traffic means I can have a bigger impact by reaching more people.  And over the course of the next few decades, this influence has the potential to create a positive change that might alter the future direction of human civilization.  Most significantly, I want to help humanity move past fear and for us to stop relating to each other through the mechanisms of fear.  If I fail, I fail.  But I’m not giving up no matter how tough it gets. Those are big stakes, and it might sound like I’m exaggerating, but this is the level at which I think about my work today.  Everything else I do, including building a high traffic web site, is simply a means to that end.  Today I’m just planting seeds, and most of them haven’t even sprouted yet.  A high traffic web site is just one of the sprouts that came about as a result of pursuing the purpose that drives me.  But it is not an end in itself. What will you do if you succeed in building a high-traffic web site?  If you someday find yourself in the privileged position of being able to influence millions of people, what will you say to them?  Will you honor and respect this position by using it as a channel to serve the highest good of all, or will you throw that opportunity away to pursue your own fleeting fame and fortune while feeding your audience disposable drivel? Although I launched this web site in October 2004, I’ve been writing articles since 1999, and feedback has allowed me to understand how small slices of my writing have affected certain people in the long run.  After reading something I’ve written, people have quit their jobs, started their own businesses, changed religions, and ended relationships.  While some people might find this level of impact ego-gratifying, for me it intensifies my feeling of personal responsibility for my writing.  I’ve seen that I’m able to have an impact on people, so I damned well better make it a good one. This “why” is what drives me.  It’s what compels me to go to my computer and write something at 3am and not stop until 10am.  I get inspired often.  The #1 reason I want more traffic is that it will allow me to help more people.  That’s where I direct my ambition for this site, and consequently I’m extremely motivated, which certainly plays a key role in taking action. 6. Let your audience see the real you. My life and my writing are intricately intertwined, such that it’s impossible to separate the two.  When someone reads this web site, they’ll eventually come to know a great deal about me as a person.  Usually this creates a skewed and inaccurate impression of who I am today because I change a lot over time — I’m not the same person I was last year — but it’s close enough.  Getting to know me makes it easier for people to understand the context of what I write, which means that more value can be transferred in less time. I’ve told many personal stories on this site, including my most painful and difficult experiences.  I don’t do this to be gratuitous but rather because those stories help make a point — that no matter where you find yourself today, you always have the opportunity to grow in some small way, and no matter how small those changes are, they’re going to add up over time to create massive lifelong growth.  That’s a lesson we all need to remember. When I find ways to turn some of my darkest experiences into lessons that might help others in similar situations, it actually transforms those painful memories into joyful ones.  They take on new meaning for me, and I can see that there was a positive reason I had to endure such experiences, one that ultimately serves the highest good of all.  Oddly, I now find that it was my darkest times that help create the most light for others. With respect to privacy, I don’t really care much for it.  I do respect other people’s right to privacy, so when people tell me personal stories via email, I don’t turn around and re-post them to my blog.  But I’m OK with being rather un-private myself.  The need for privacy comes from the desire to protect the ego, which is a fear-driven desire, and fear is something I just don’t need in my life.  My attitude is that it’s perfectly OK to fail or to be rejected publicly.  Trying to appear perfect is nothing but a house of cards that will eventually collapse. I think allowing people to know the real me makes it possible to build a relationship with my audience that’s based on intimacy and friendship.  I dislike seeing people putting me on too much of a pedestal and using labels like “guru” or “overachiever.”  Such labels create distance which makes communication harder.  They emphasize our differences instead of our similarities.  Communication between equals — between friends — is more effective. More genuine communication means better connections with your audience, which means more repeat traffic and more referral traffic.  This isn’t a manipulative game though, and excessive or overly dramatic self-disclosure for the purpose of linkbaiting will only backfire.  Your reasons for storytelling must be to benefit your audience.  The traffic benefits are a positive side effect. 7. Write what is true for you, and learn to live with the consequences. If the stuff I’ve written on this site means I’ll never be able to run for a political office, I can live with that.  I’m willing to write what is true for me, even if it goes against my social conditioning.  Being honest is more important to me than being popular.  But the irony is that because bold honesty is so rare among civilized humans, in the long run this may be the best traffic-building strategy of all. People often warn me not to write things that might alienate a portion of my visitors.  But somehow I keep doing the opposite and seeing traffic go up, not down.  I don’t treat any subjects as taboo or sacred if they’re relevant to personal growth, and that includes diet and religion.  It’s no secret that I’m a vegan ex-Catholic.  Do I alienate people when I say that torturing and killing defenseless animals for food is wrong?  Perhaps.  But truth is truth.  I happen to think it’s a bad idea to feed cows cement dust and bovine growth hormone, to pack live chickens into warehouses where the ammonia from their feces is strong enough to burn their skin off, and to feed 70% of our grain to livestock while tens of thousands of people die of hunger each day.  I also think it’s a bad idea to pay people to perform these actions on my behalf.  It really doesn’t matter to me that 999 people out of 1000 disagree with me.  Your disagreement with me doesn’t change what went into producing your burger.  It’s still a diseased, tortured, chemical-injected cow, one that was doomed to a very sad life because of a decision you made.  And you’re still responsible for your role in that cow’s suffering whether you like it or not. That last paragraph is a good example of the kind of stuff I write that makes people want to put me in a cage, inject me with hormones, and feed me cement dust.  It wouldn’t surprise me terribly if that ends up being my fate. I write what is true for me, regardless of public opinion.  Sometimes I’m in the majority; sometimes I’m not.  I’m fully aware that some of my opinions are unpopular, and I’m absolutely fine with that.  What I’m not fine with is putting truth to a vote. I take the time to form my own opinions instead of simply regurgitating what I was taught as a child.  And I’m also well aware that there are people spending billions of dollars to make you think that a burger is not a very sad, diseased, tortured, chemical-injected cow.  But I’m going to keep writing to help you remain aware of things like that, even though you may hate me for it.  That defensiveness eventually leads to doubt, which leads to change and growth, so it’s perfectly fine.  I’m good at dealing with defensiveness. I don’t worry too much about hurting people’s feelings.  Hurt feelings are a step in the right direction for many people.  If I’m able to offend you so easily, to me that means you already recognize some truth in what I’ve written, but you aren’t ready to face it consciously yet.  If you read something from me that provokes an emotional reaction, then a seed has already been planted.  In other words, it’s already too late for you.  My goal isn’t to convince anyone of anything in particular.  I’m not an animal rights activist, and I don’t have a religion to promote.  My goal is to awaken people to living more consciously.  This requires raising people’s awareness across all facets of their lives, so they can make the big decisions for themselves.  It requires breaking social conditioning and replacing it with conscious awareness and intention.  That’s a big job, but someone has to do it.  And if I don’t do it, then I have to admit I’m just part of the problem like all the other hibernating bears. A lot has been written about the importance of transparency in blogging, and truth is the best transparency of all.  Truth creates trust, and trust builds traffic.  No games, no gimmicks… just plain old brutal honesty.  Even the people that say they hate you will still come back, and eventually those people will become your most ardent supporters.  Even if they don’t agree with you, they’ll learn they can trust you and that your intentions are honorable, and trust is more important than agreement. 8. Treat your visitors like real human beings. Even though I’m sitting at my computer writing this, seemingly alone, I know you’re a real human being reading it on the other end.  My apologies to sentient androids who may be reading this years after it’s been written.  You aren’t just a number in my web stats.  Despite the technology involved and the time-space differential between my writing and your reading, there’s still a human-to-human connection between us that transcends time and space.  And that connection matters to me.  I feel its presence whenever I do my best writing. While I imagine being on a stage in front of a million people when deciding which topic to write about, once I actually get going, I imagine having a one-on-one conversation with a friend.  This means revealing some of myself and being honest, as the last two points already addressed, but it also means genuinely caring about you as a person.  And that’s perhaps one of the best kept secrets of my success as a blogger.  I actually care about helping you grow.  I want you to become more conscious and aware.  I want you to experience less fear in your life.  And my concern for your well-being isn’t conditional upon you liking me. I happen to think we have a lot more similarities than differences.  Based on what I know about myself, I imagine you’d like your life to be better tomorrow than it was yesterday.  I imagine you’d like to be happier, more fulfilled, and more at peace with yourself.  I also imagine you’re living below your potential and could use some help overcoming fear and solving certain problems to enable you to tap more of that potential.  And finally, I imagine you wouldn’t believe me if I said you can have it all for only $19.95 (as well you shouldn’t). The reason I work so hard to create original content and then give it away for free is because I want to help as many people as possible.  I genuinely care what happens to this beautiful planet and to the people who live here.  It’s possible I actually value your life even more than you do.  This is the kind of motivation that never wanes.  I sometimes lose sight of it when I get caught up in the details, but the connection is always there, waiting for me to tap into it whenever I want.  This provides me with a wellspring of creative ideas and an inexhaustible passion for contribution. I don’t need to play stupid marketing and sales games with you.  There’s nothing for you to buy here.  Even if I add some products in the future, I’m not going to try to manipulate you into buying something you don’t need with a slew of false promises.  I might make more money in the short-term by doing that, but it would sever our genuine connection, create a wall between us, and reduce the level of impact I’m able to have.  Ultimately, that approach would lead to failure for me, at least in terms of how I define success.  I can’t help you grow if I violate your trust. I cannot force anyone to grow who doesn’t want to.  But there are a lot of people on this planet who are now ready to let go of low-awareness living and start pushing themselves to the next level of human existence.  And they need help to get there because it’s a difficult journey, and there are strong forces working against it. Real human beings helping real human beings is ultimately what traffic growth is all about.  That’s precisely what a link or a referral is.  If you align yourself with the intention of genuinely helping people because you care, you’ll soon find yourself with an abundance of traffic. 9. Keep money in its proper place. Money is important.  Obviously I have bills to pay.  Money pays for my computer, my high-speed internet connection, my house, and my food.  I just returned yesterday from a vacation that money paid for.  My wife and I had a great time partly because we didn’t have to worry about money at all on the trip.  We did everything we wanted to do without being hampered by a lack of funds.  And this web site paid for it. It’s important that I generate some money from my work, but it’s not necessary that I extract every possible dollar.  In fact, relative to its traffic levels, I’m seriously under-monetizing this site.  But money is only a means to an end, not an end in itself.  Making a positive contribution to the world is a lot more important to me than money.  Money can be useful in achieving this objective, but human relationships are far more important.  The funny thing is that the less I rely on money, the more of it I seem to have. I’m already making more money than I need to pay my bills, and my income from this site keeps going up each month.  If I simply keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll probably end up becoming fairly wealthy.  But money is an extremely weak motivator for me.  Very little of what I do today has a profit motive behind it except to the extent that money will fuel more important goals.  That tends to confuse certain people because some of my decisions align with earning money, but many don’t.  While I do consider myself an entrepreneur (at least it’s less isolating than “guru”), I only see money as a tool for enhancing and expanding my contribution. While many entrepreneurs pursue money for the purpose of becoming wealthy, I chose a different route.  I sought to earn money for the purpose of increasing my freedom.  I don’t want to get myself stuck in a pattern of working for money, so I’m constantly turning down opportunities to make money that would restrict my freedom.  For example, I don’t do any consulting or coaching.  Consequently, my calendar contains very few fixed appointments.  This doesn’t mean I’m idle.  It just means I spend my time doing what I freely choose to do instead of what others would have me do.  I require this level of flexibility to do my best work. By paying close attention to how I earn money and not just how much I earn, I keep money in its proper place.  This allows me to stay focused on my purpose without getting wrapped up in less important concerns like building a brand, closing sales, or doing phony marketing. I dislike it when other people use one-dimensional sales and marketing tactics on me, so I avoid using these techniques on this site.  I’ve sort of unplugged myself from the current capitalistic system and set up a side system of my own that I find much more congruent with conscious living.  I would love for other people to have the same level of freedom I enjoy each day.  I’m sure I’ll continue to improve my approach over time, but it’s working wonderfully so far.  Imagine having a business with no products, no inventory, no sales, and no customers, but still generating an abundant positive cashflow. Since the income generation is largely on autopilot, I can focus my time and energy on creating content instead of on doing marketing or trying to sell something.  And being able to devote so much time to content creation without worrying how I’ll pay my bills makes it a lot easier to build high traffic. Some business models make it very challenging to build traffic.  You have to spend a lot of time and energy just on lead generation, and then maybe you try to monetize those leads by selling a product or service.  It’s always an uphill struggle. I give all my best content away for free.  Word of mouth does the rest.  So my traffic building strategy is more like flowing downstream.  It hasn’t been a struggle for me at all.  And once you have sufficient traffic, it isn’t that hard to monetize it without becoming an ogre. We’ve all heard the expression, “Build a better mousetrap, and they’ll come.”  And we’ve also heard marketing and sales people say that this is just plain wrong — you have to market and sell that mousetrap effectively too.  I say they’re all wrong.  My approach is the equivalent of, “Build a better mousetrap and give it away for free, and they’ll come — and they’ll bring friends too.” 10. If you forget the first nine suggestions, just focus on genuinely helping people, and the rest will take care of itself. One thing that turns me off about typical self-help marketing is that authors and speakers often position themselves as if they’re the opposite of their audience.  I’m successful and you’re not.  I’m rich and you’re not.  I’m fit and you’re not.  You need me because something is lacking in your life, I have exactly what you lack, and if you pay me (and make me even richer and you poorer), I’ll show you how you can have it too.  And if it doesn’t work for you, it just means you’re even more of an idiot than the people who provided my testimonials. I’m sure you’ve heard this sort of nonsense many times before. All of this I’ve-arrived-and-you-haven’t stuff is stupid.  It suggests that life is about destinations and that once you’ve arrived, you’re done growing and can just relax and sip fruity drinks for the rest of your life.  But there’s more to life than border crossings.  If you go from single to married or from non-millionaire to millionaire, that’s fine and dandy.  Crossing the border into parenthood was a big one for me.  But that’s only one day of my life, and to be honest, I didn’t have much control over it except for a decision made nine-months earlier (and it seemed like a pretty attractive idea at the time).  What about all those other days though? Growing as a human being is something I work on daily.  I’m deeply passionate about my own growth, so naturally I want to share this part of the journey with others.  If I start marketing myself with the “I’m successful and you’re not approach,” I hope someone will come put me out of my misery, since that would mean I’m done growing and ready to die.  I don’t expect to ever be done growing as long as I exist as a human being.  There are always new distinctions to be made and new experiences to enjoy.  And yes… plenty of mistakes to be made as well. One of the great benefits of focusing on helping others is that it gets fear out of the way.  Without fear you become free to just be yourself.  You’re able to take intelligent risks and remain detached from any specific outcome because the journey is more important to you than the specific stops along the way.  Personally it’s not the destinations that excite me but rather the unfolding process of discovery.  I love the anticipation of wondering what lies around each new bend. If we are to help each other, we need to be partners in the pursuit of growth, not opponents.  So it makes no sense to put up fake walls between us.  The ego needs walls to protect it, but if we can get past the fear-based needs of the ego, we’ll make a lot more progress. There are plenty of things I could do with this site that would make me more money or grow traffic faster in the short-term, but I won’t do them because they’ll just put more distance between us.  I’ll be on my side, you’ll be on your side, and we’ll each be slightly afraid of the other.  I’ll be worried that maybe you won’t buy what I’m selling, and you’ll be worried about getting ripped off or taken advantage of.  We’ll just be drinking yet another round of fear, which is exactly the opposite of what we need to grow. One of my biggest challenges in life right now is figuring out how to help enough people switch their primary polarization from fear to love.  Our emotions are an energy source for us (they drive our actions), and most of the world is still driven by fear energy.  Watching TV news is a good example; we can actually feel energized by watching others suffer.  Hurting animals is another example; we eat their fear for breakfast.  But there’s another fuel for human consciousness, and perhaps the best way to describe it is unconditional love.  This isn’t the squishy emotion of romantic love — it’s a sense of connection to everything that exists and a desire to serve the highest good of all.  Unconditional love, when it becomes one’s primary fuel, cultivates fearlessness.  In this state you still have the biological fight-or-flight response, but you aren’t driven by emotional worries like fear of failure or fear of rejection.  You feel perfectly safe regardless of external circumstances.  And when you have this feeling of unconditional safety, you’re truly free to be yourself, to embrace new experiences, and to grow at a very fast pace. Personal growth is not a zero-sum game.  If you grow as a human being, it doesn’t harm me.  In fact, ultimately if all of us grow as individuals, it’s going to make this whole planet better for everyone.  When enough people switch their primary polarization from fear to unconditional love, this planet will become a true paradise.  That’s a good thing for all of us, one that’s more important than all the money in the world. Perhaps you have a less ambitious goal for building web traffic than raising human consciousness and working towards world peace.  That doesn’t matter.  You can still make helping others your primary focus, and if you do that, you’ll find it relatively easy to build a high-traffic web site.  If you align yourself with serving the highest good of all, you’ll receive plenty of help along the way, and best of all, you’ll deserve it. Do your best to help your visitors out of genuine concern for their well-being, and they’ll help you build your traffic and even generate a nice income from it.  It’s as simple as that. Final thoughts Building a high-traffic website can be very challenging if you’ve never done it before. These tips really only scratch the surface of what you need to know to succeed. Since writing this article, I found an alternative suggestion for those who find it difficult to build substantial traffic and income online. Please check out Build Your Own Successful Online Business for details.
    Jul 12, 2011 1328
  • 12 Jul 2011
    According to a well-known stereotype, left-handed* people such as myself are supposedly more creative than right-handed people. For example, in the previous sentence, I just alienated most of my readers while simultaneously giving myself a compliment – pretty creative, eh? I don’t know if that stereotype has any basis in reality, but when I learned about it as a child, I assumed that because I was left-handed, I was supposed to be highly creative.  That was the rule, right?  I never thought to question it, so creativity became a big part of my value system from an early age. Creativity has its downsides, but on balance it has served me extremely well over the years.  Perhaps the biggest benefit (and curse) is that it’s pushed me to do some very unorthodox things, which has certainly made my life interesting.  Because the value of creativity is so strongly conditioned in me, if the majority of people are doing something, I almost automatically want to avoid it and do something else. Most people have jobs and salaries, so I avoid that like the plague.  Most people are afraid of public speaking, so naturally I love it.  Most people eat animals, so I go vegan.  I’m just a cesspool of contrarianism. When someone zigs, I automatically want to zag.  In my teenage years, I often made this choice irrationally, such as when zagging was dangerous or destructive.  I soon learned that being different just for the sake of being different isn’t very smart.  So after a few years of painful zags, I eventually learned to rein in my creativity and temper it with some common sense zigs. But if you can avoid being irrational when a common sense solution is superior to a creative one, then developing your creativity can be a personal development goldmine.  It certainly has been for me. Normality is futile. Creativity works very well in situations where being normal or average is suboptimal, and there are many situations that qualify.  Consider income generation.  The common sense solution is to get a job and earn a salary.  But a reasonably intelligent person who looks at all the options will soon see that a job/salary has some huge drawbacks.  Just get a job, and you’ll find out what they are.  I explained some of those drawbacks in Podcast #6:  How to Make Money Without a Job.  But basically, having a job is very risky, you receive only a fraction of the value you generate, you pay the highest taxes of anyone, it takes an insanely large percentage of your time, and you give up a lot of freedom.  To me the disadvantages of a job outweigh the advantages.  Why would I want to put myself in a situation where someone might have the power to terminate my employment?  I’d rather not take that kind of risk with my financial security.  Getting a job is a very uncreative solution to the problem of income generation, and it isn’t that hard to come up with a creative solution that’s more secure, more lucrative, and more efficient.  Of course, if you don’t have many entrepreneurial friends, you may be suffering from fear of the unknown, erroneously thinking that owning your own income source is riskier than leasing it.  But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that owning a golden goose is better than borrowing one (especially if the current owner is fickle). Other areas where superior results can be achieved by avoiding “normal” are health (diet, exercise), relationships (fulfillment, passion, commitment), financial management (debt, investing), personal productivity, motivation/drive, and happiness. It’s sad but true that if you want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, you’re more likely to get there by taking a creative path vs. doing what you see everyone else doing.  If you’re not very bright, then following the masses is generally a good idea.  But if you have a half-decent intellect, then you can do much better than average, so hold yourself to a higher standard. Use creativity to overcome boredom. Another benefit of creativity is that you can use it to eliminate boredom by boosting the challenge level of something that would otherwise bore you. When I was a senior in high school taking AP Calculus, I grasped the material so quickly and easily that I soon became bored, so I boosted the challenge by doing my assignments creatively.  Not only would I often solve problems using methods that weren’t taught in class, but I’d frequently do my homework on unusual media.  For example, I’d do my homework in crayon or colored pencil, on a single 2″ x 2″ (5cm x 5cm) piece of paper, or on the back of a cereal box cover.  Every week I challenged myself to come up with a creative new way to do my assignments.  Fortunately, I had an amazing teacher who was willing to tolerate my obnoxiousness. During Christmas break of my senior year, just for fun I decided to finish all my calculus homework for the remainder of the school year.  Of course I didn’t know which problems would eventually be assigned, so I did every remaining problem in the book and turned in a big stack of not-yet-assigned homework at the start of the second semester, saying to the teacher, “I’m done.  Now what?”  That was my way of challenging him to be creative right back at me.  What would he do with a student who’d already learned the whole upcoming semester that he was about to teach?  Would he force me to sit there twiddling my thumbs the whole time?  Fortunately, he rose to the challenge and pushed me to do more, even giving me special assignments and tests that were different from the rest of the class. Using creativity to boost the challenge had the effect of giving me a better education than I would have gotten if I merely acquiesced to boredom.  It’s impossible to be bored when you’re challenged.  You might get frustrated if the challenge is too great, but you won’t be bored. Use creativity to gain a competitive advantage. Creativity, when used intelligently, can yield a significant competitive advantage in business.  Most people in business are about as creative as Borg drones (the fodder kind with no shields).  A high degree of creativity is unusual in business, even in so-called creative fields like computer game development.  Obviously not everyone in the business world will appreciate your creativity, but if most of your competition is wholly uncreative, you’ll stand out from the crowd and get noticed, which can bring you opportunities that uncreative people will never be offered. When I started Dexterity Software in 1994, I was sadly uncreative.  Out of the gate I played it too safe.  The first couple games I released didn’t sell very well, but I gradually re-embraced my creativity and hit my stride in 1999 when I released Dweep.  It took me four solid months and countless iterations just to produce the game’s five-page design doc.  By comparison the programming, artwork, music, and sound effects took only two months.  Most other game designers were pushing the technology side, so I settled for moderate technology and pushed the design side. My hard work and creativity paid off.  Dweep won the Shareware Industry Award in 2000 and 2001 as well as the ZDNet Shareware Award in 2000.  Plus it generated a healthy six figure$ in direct sales and enabled me to further grow the business and hire a full-time producer to help publish more than a dozen other games.  I even got a write-up and my photo in the New York Times thanks to the success of Dweep. In designing Dweep I basically looked at what everyone else in my market was doing and then did the opposite.  Instead of creating yet another violent shoot-em-up, I designed Dweep to be nonviolent.  I got lucky too because the game was released shortly after the Columbine high school shootings, when there was a media-fueled backlash against video game violence.  Dweep is also a very mental game, which makes it appeal to smart people who want to challenge their minds instead of their reflexes.  And lastly, because Dweep’s gameplay consists of original puzzles not found anywhere else, I enjoyed less competition because this type of game is extremely hard to design, not unlike solving tricky calculus problems.  You have to be something of a masochist to attempt such a project, so there’s a higher barrier to entry for this segment of the market than there is with simpler, less design-intensive games.  When competition ultimately poured into the downloadable games market (as I knew it eventually would), my segment saw much weaker competition than more casual, less cerebral games. Now 6-1/2 years later, Dweep Gold is still selling.  Why?  Because people keep buying it.  Even though the game can’t compete with today’s game technology, it runs great on slow or fast PCs, and it’s still fun and unique.  Even though I officially retired from the computer gaming industry in 2004, I still enjoy passive income from ongoing sales of Dweep Gold, and I haven’t updated the game since 2002.  I love that it challenges people mentally and pushes them to think both logically and creatively, so continuing to support it remains congruent with my desire to help people grow.  I continue to receive positive feedback about the game from people who love a good mental challenge, and I happily concede the less cranial part of the market to everyone else. Update 8:06am:  Someone asked me if there’s a free demo of Dweep Gold.  Yes, there is.  You can download it from the main Dweep Gold page if you’re curious.  It includes the first five levels.  It’s PC only — no Mac version. Figure out what everyone else is doing, and then do the opposite. You may observe that I’m using a similar creative approach in building this personal development business.  Again, I basically looked at what everyone else in this field was doing and then did the opposite.  Instead of making ridiculous promises to fix all your problems overnight in order to sell you the “cure” like many self-help marketers do, I tell you up front that personal development is hard work (it’s right there on my home page).  I give all my content away free.  I have no products to sell you.  I maintain a blog.  I use a predominantly online strategy.  Zig Ziglar zigs.  I zag. Compared to what most of the established pros in this field are doing, my approach is creative — or at least contrarian.  But is it working?  Yeah, I’d say so.  I’m earning a decent income from it already (expecting six figures this year), and I only started in October 2004.  I’m helping people every day.  I don’t need a lifetime supply of tooth whitener.  I’m doing what I love.  I enjoy a ridiculous amount of freedom.  And I’m having a hell of a good time. Don’t give up if you’re right-handed. Even if you’re cursed with being right-handed, you can still be creative.  Just switch to using your left hand.  Hehehe.  Playing follow the follower and applying “common sense” solutions may seem intelligent, but it’s often smarter to go a different route.  In many cases the common path is popular because it’s expedient, not because it’s smart.  As a general rule, playing follow-the-follower is unnecessarily risky, boring, and inefficient. Don’t be afraid to be creative.  Notice what everyone else is doing, and then do the opposite whenever it seems intelligent to do so.  Take the road less traveled.  Even if you don’t fare as well I do with this approach, you’ll at least have some interesting stories to tell your grandchildren.  Now more than ever, this planet needs creative problem solvers more than obedient drones. * Long-time readers are invited to add “left-handed” to my ever-growing list of symptoms.  Please let me know when you think you have a diagnosis.
    809 Posted by UniqueThis
  • According to a well-known stereotype, left-handed* people such as myself are supposedly more creative than right-handed people. For example, in the previous sentence, I just alienated most of my readers while simultaneously giving myself a compliment – pretty creative, eh? I don’t know if that stereotype has any basis in reality, but when I learned about it as a child, I assumed that because I was left-handed, I was supposed to be highly creative.  That was the rule, right?  I never thought to question it, so creativity became a big part of my value system from an early age. Creativity has its downsides, but on balance it has served me extremely well over the years.  Perhaps the biggest benefit (and curse) is that it’s pushed me to do some very unorthodox things, which has certainly made my life interesting.  Because the value of creativity is so strongly conditioned in me, if the majority of people are doing something, I almost automatically want to avoid it and do something else. Most people have jobs and salaries, so I avoid that like the plague.  Most people are afraid of public speaking, so naturally I love it.  Most people eat animals, so I go vegan.  I’m just a cesspool of contrarianism. When someone zigs, I automatically want to zag.  In my teenage years, I often made this choice irrationally, such as when zagging was dangerous or destructive.  I soon learned that being different just for the sake of being different isn’t very smart.  So after a few years of painful zags, I eventually learned to rein in my creativity and temper it with some common sense zigs. But if you can avoid being irrational when a common sense solution is superior to a creative one, then developing your creativity can be a personal development goldmine.  It certainly has been for me. Normality is futile. Creativity works very well in situations where being normal or average is suboptimal, and there are many situations that qualify.  Consider income generation.  The common sense solution is to get a job and earn a salary.  But a reasonably intelligent person who looks at all the options will soon see that a job/salary has some huge drawbacks.  Just get a job, and you’ll find out what they are.  I explained some of those drawbacks in Podcast #6:  How to Make Money Without a Job.  But basically, having a job is very risky, you receive only a fraction of the value you generate, you pay the highest taxes of anyone, it takes an insanely large percentage of your time, and you give up a lot of freedom.  To me the disadvantages of a job outweigh the advantages.  Why would I want to put myself in a situation where someone might have the power to terminate my employment?  I’d rather not take that kind of risk with my financial security.  Getting a job is a very uncreative solution to the problem of income generation, and it isn’t that hard to come up with a creative solution that’s more secure, more lucrative, and more efficient.  Of course, if you don’t have many entrepreneurial friends, you may be suffering from fear of the unknown, erroneously thinking that owning your own income source is riskier than leasing it.  But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that owning a golden goose is better than borrowing one (especially if the current owner is fickle). Other areas where superior results can be achieved by avoiding “normal” are health (diet, exercise), relationships (fulfillment, passion, commitment), financial management (debt, investing), personal productivity, motivation/drive, and happiness. It’s sad but true that if you want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, you’re more likely to get there by taking a creative path vs. doing what you see everyone else doing.  If you’re not very bright, then following the masses is generally a good idea.  But if you have a half-decent intellect, then you can do much better than average, so hold yourself to a higher standard. Use creativity to overcome boredom. Another benefit of creativity is that you can use it to eliminate boredom by boosting the challenge level of something that would otherwise bore you. When I was a senior in high school taking AP Calculus, I grasped the material so quickly and easily that I soon became bored, so I boosted the challenge by doing my assignments creatively.  Not only would I often solve problems using methods that weren’t taught in class, but I’d frequently do my homework on unusual media.  For example, I’d do my homework in crayon or colored pencil, on a single 2″ x 2″ (5cm x 5cm) piece of paper, or on the back of a cereal box cover.  Every week I challenged myself to come up with a creative new way to do my assignments.  Fortunately, I had an amazing teacher who was willing to tolerate my obnoxiousness. During Christmas break of my senior year, just for fun I decided to finish all my calculus homework for the remainder of the school year.  Of course I didn’t know which problems would eventually be assigned, so I did every remaining problem in the book and turned in a big stack of not-yet-assigned homework at the start of the second semester, saying to the teacher, “I’m done.  Now what?”  That was my way of challenging him to be creative right back at me.  What would he do with a student who’d already learned the whole upcoming semester that he was about to teach?  Would he force me to sit there twiddling my thumbs the whole time?  Fortunately, he rose to the challenge and pushed me to do more, even giving me special assignments and tests that were different from the rest of the class. Using creativity to boost the challenge had the effect of giving me a better education than I would have gotten if I merely acquiesced to boredom.  It’s impossible to be bored when you’re challenged.  You might get frustrated if the challenge is too great, but you won’t be bored. Use creativity to gain a competitive advantage. Creativity, when used intelligently, can yield a significant competitive advantage in business.  Most people in business are about as creative as Borg drones (the fodder kind with no shields).  A high degree of creativity is unusual in business, even in so-called creative fields like computer game development.  Obviously not everyone in the business world will appreciate your creativity, but if most of your competition is wholly uncreative, you’ll stand out from the crowd and get noticed, which can bring you opportunities that uncreative people will never be offered. When I started Dexterity Software in 1994, I was sadly uncreative.  Out of the gate I played it too safe.  The first couple games I released didn’t sell very well, but I gradually re-embraced my creativity and hit my stride in 1999 when I released Dweep.  It took me four solid months and countless iterations just to produce the game’s five-page design doc.  By comparison the programming, artwork, music, and sound effects took only two months.  Most other game designers were pushing the technology side, so I settled for moderate technology and pushed the design side. My hard work and creativity paid off.  Dweep won the Shareware Industry Award in 2000 and 2001 as well as the ZDNet Shareware Award in 2000.  Plus it generated a healthy six figure$ in direct sales and enabled me to further grow the business and hire a full-time producer to help publish more than a dozen other games.  I even got a write-up and my photo in the New York Times thanks to the success of Dweep. In designing Dweep I basically looked at what everyone else in my market was doing and then did the opposite.  Instead of creating yet another violent shoot-em-up, I designed Dweep to be nonviolent.  I got lucky too because the game was released shortly after the Columbine high school shootings, when there was a media-fueled backlash against video game violence.  Dweep is also a very mental game, which makes it appeal to smart people who want to challenge their minds instead of their reflexes.  And lastly, because Dweep’s gameplay consists of original puzzles not found anywhere else, I enjoyed less competition because this type of game is extremely hard to design, not unlike solving tricky calculus problems.  You have to be something of a masochist to attempt such a project, so there’s a higher barrier to entry for this segment of the market than there is with simpler, less design-intensive games.  When competition ultimately poured into the downloadable games market (as I knew it eventually would), my segment saw much weaker competition than more casual, less cerebral games. Now 6-1/2 years later, Dweep Gold is still selling.  Why?  Because people keep buying it.  Even though the game can’t compete with today’s game technology, it runs great on slow or fast PCs, and it’s still fun and unique.  Even though I officially retired from the computer gaming industry in 2004, I still enjoy passive income from ongoing sales of Dweep Gold, and I haven’t updated the game since 2002.  I love that it challenges people mentally and pushes them to think both logically and creatively, so continuing to support it remains congruent with my desire to help people grow.  I continue to receive positive feedback about the game from people who love a good mental challenge, and I happily concede the less cranial part of the market to everyone else. Update 8:06am:  Someone asked me if there’s a free demo of Dweep Gold.  Yes, there is.  You can download it from the main Dweep Gold page if you’re curious.  It includes the first five levels.  It’s PC only — no Mac version. Figure out what everyone else is doing, and then do the opposite. You may observe that I’m using a similar creative approach in building this personal development business.  Again, I basically looked at what everyone else in this field was doing and then did the opposite.  Instead of making ridiculous promises to fix all your problems overnight in order to sell you the “cure” like many self-help marketers do, I tell you up front that personal development is hard work (it’s right there on my home page).  I give all my content away free.  I have no products to sell you.  I maintain a blog.  I use a predominantly online strategy.  Zig Ziglar zigs.  I zag. Compared to what most of the established pros in this field are doing, my approach is creative — or at least contrarian.  But is it working?  Yeah, I’d say so.  I’m earning a decent income from it already (expecting six figures this year), and I only started in October 2004.  I’m helping people every day.  I don’t need a lifetime supply of tooth whitener.  I’m doing what I love.  I enjoy a ridiculous amount of freedom.  And I’m having a hell of a good time. Don’t give up if you’re right-handed. Even if you’re cursed with being right-handed, you can still be creative.  Just switch to using your left hand.  Hehehe.  Playing follow the follower and applying “common sense” solutions may seem intelligent, but it’s often smarter to go a different route.  In many cases the common path is popular because it’s expedient, not because it’s smart.  As a general rule, playing follow-the-follower is unnecessarily risky, boring, and inefficient. Don’t be afraid to be creative.  Notice what everyone else is doing, and then do the opposite whenever it seems intelligent to do so.  Take the road less traveled.  Even if you don’t fare as well I do with this approach, you’ll at least have some interesting stories to tell your grandchildren.  Now more than ever, this planet needs creative problem solvers more than obedient drones. * Long-time readers are invited to add “left-handed” to my ever-growing list of symptoms.  Please let me know when you think you have a diagnosis.
    Jul 12, 2011 809
  • 12 Jul 2011
    The self-help industry is frequently criticized for being poulated by scam artists who overpromise and underdeliver.  Is this a valid criticism?  Let’s take a deeper look into the dark side of self-help. False promises One of the biggest problems in the self-help industry is that promoters make false promises.  They promise hugely unrealistic results, as if reading a single book or attending a single seminar will produce all the permanent changes you need to make your life absolutely perfect.  And yet people still buy these products because they really want to believe the marketers are telling the truth. False promises are by no means unique to self-help.  Auto dealerships put the self-help industry to shame in this respect.  But despite the excessive marketing hype, with experience it becomes possible to see through the hype and find some real substance in self-help.  You can go to a bookstore and browse through the whole self-help section without paying a dime until you find something you feel is worthwhile.  You can check out books and audio programs from the library.  You can read this and many other web sites for free.  Many items for purchase come with unconditional money-back guarantees, which in my experience have always been honored.  You may still risk some of your time, but you don’t have to risk a lot of money if you don’t want to.  The story of Og Mandino is a great example.  He was a drunk who wandered into libraries to get out of the cold.  Eventually he began reading, and this helped turn his life around completely. While fast promises are a big problem in the self-help industry, they aren’t hard to recognize with a bit of practice.  Mostly I recommend using common sense.  If the promised results don’t sound realistic to you, they probably aren’t. One thing I’ve found is that certain authors are more hype-prone than others.  If you see a book promising to make you an instant millionaire, well, that just isn’t realistic for most people.  Not that you can’t become a millionaire — it’s just that it will probably take a lot more than reading one book to get there. One author I respect in the area of making promises is Brian Tracy.  While his offerings aren’t immune to marketing hype, I find that his materials tend to deliver fairly good value for the money.  I’ve gotten many usable ideas from him, particularly in the area of time management.  His book Time Power is one of the best — it’s essentially a transcript of his How to Master Your Time audio program, which was instrumental to me in graduating college in just three semesters.  My favorite Brian Tracy book, however, is Maximum Achievement, which I found motivational as well as practical.  I read it years ago and still use many of the ideas from that book today. Fast and Easy Perhaps the granddaddy of false promises is that of “fast and easy” results.  The words fast and easy simply don’t mesh with the realities of self-help.  Self-help has been so corrupted by this mindset that I prefer to distance myself from it by using the label “personal development” instead.  I really don’t want to be associated with the marketers who promise quick-fix solutions to very difficult human challenges. Right there on my home page, you’ll find the sentence, “Personal development is hard.”  Sadly such statements are rare in self-help circles.  And that’s mainly because “hard” doesn’t sell as well as “fast and easy.” The “fast and easy” model is what I call Personal Development for Dummies.  Let’s face it — there are a lot of dumb and gullible people in the world.  P.T. Barnum was right when he said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Actually P.T. Barnum never said that — his competitor David Hannum did.  But like the “fast and easy” mindset, this falsehood remains stuck in human consciousness, and it’s very difficult to dislodge. “Fast and easy” marketing preys on the worst parts of human nature, mainly our greed and our laziness.  Based on the terminology I use on this site (i.e. “Personal Development for Smart People”), dumb people lack the self-awareness to realize they’re being manipulated.  Smart people are able to see through this manipulation such that it doesn’t affect them much.  Somewhere in the middle are the semi-intelligent people who realize they’re being manipulated, but they overreact to it, such as by labeling the entire field of self-help as phony based on a few bad experiences.  The smart approach is to learn to see past the marketing hype, so you can bypass obvious fluff while still being able to unearth a true gem now and then. I don’t expect fast and easy marketing hype to go away.  There are a lot more dummies than smart people in the world, and those dummies have credit cards. No substance Putting aside the impossibility of delivering on promises that were false to begin with, there are many self-help works that simply don’t deliver much real value at all.  I know because I’ve read hundreds of such books, and I’ve listened to many lousy audio programs.  In this sense I’d say the self-help industry is no better or worse than most others.  There are a lot of lousy products on the market in just about any consumer field.  Self-help, when it fails to deliver, usually just fizzles and produces no result at all other than disappointment.  On the downside, however, it can actually harm your health and your pocketbook to follow bad advice blindly, but this certainly isn’t specific to self-help.  Eating unhealthy fast food will generally kill you more quickly than bad affirmations. Personally I found a hidden benefit in the lack of substance in most self-help literature.  These frequent disappointments helped me develop a more mature view towards my personal growth, one that is realistic for me but still very aggressive.  I’ve gotten much better at avoiding those materials that are pure fluff, while improving my odds of finding some real gems.  For example, here’s a simple rule you may wish to use:  Avoid buying health books with fat doctors on the cover.  And another:  Don’t enter a business deal if during negotiations, your potential partner seems preoccupied with complaining about how badly their last similar deal went and why it was entirely the fault of the other party.  You’ll be next! Truthfully there is some genuine wisdom to be found in self-help.  But it can take a lot of time to find the diamonds among the lumps of coal.  And one person’s diamond is another person’s coal.  Is it worth the effort though?  Yes, I definitely believe it is.  I wouldn’t be running this web site otherwise. Self-help has the potential to be very high leverage.  One good idea can transform your life for the better, even if it’s just a mindset change.  Before college I had never given much thought to the possibility that being sarcastic and skeptical about my future might limit my results.  I figured I was just being smart.  But I gradually became convinced those “attitude is everything” authors such as Earl Nightingale were right, and indeed they were.  The key was learning to have a positive attitude while still remaining rational and realistic, but that largely came about with time and experience.  It takes practice to achieve the right balance between underconfidence and overconfidence, but I do credit some of the books and audio programs I’ve devoured with helping me achieve this balance.  Most people are grossly underconfident, which is a very suboptimal way to live, so ideas that shift the pendulum closer to the middle are in my opinion very worthwhile. No contribution to society A corollary to the lack of substance is that self-help makes no real contribution to society.  Nothing is produced but hot air.  While this is a valid criticism in the case of false promises, I’ve personally found tremendous value in certain self-help ideas, and I know others have too.  One effective time management idea can boost the productivity of many people.  Imagine what companies like Enron or WorldCom might have done for society if their leaders had been sold on the concept of integrity.  Lies and falsehoods create no value or even destroy existing value.  Truth creates value.  And the true gems of self-help create tremendous value. Self-help is the pursuit of self-knowledge and self-understanding.  To say that it has no value is akin to saying that knowledge itself has none.  What value is created by knowing that the earth is round?  Quite a bit I’d say.  What value is created by learning to walk, talk, and interact with other human beings?  Again, it’s significant.  What value is created by self-confidence, self-esteem, and realistic but aggressive goal-setting?  A great deal…. When it’s at its worst, consuming self-help drivel is a waste of your time, energy, and money.  But when it’s good, it’s really good.  Exploring the world, educating ourselves, understanding who and what we are, and learning to communicate effectively with each other creates massive leverage for further value creation.  And personally I think this produces more genuine value than companies whose so-called value creation consists of health-destroying junk food, worthless products no one really needs, environmental toxins, resource pillaging, etc.  Which is more productive?  To transform a depressed person into a mature, confident one that will be twice as productive and a lot happier… or to manufacture a sofa?  You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Lack of integrity Even more serious than overhyped promises with no substance is the problem of dishonesty.  There are many shades of gray between mild exaggeration and outright lying, and each author falls into a different part of the spectrum.  Let me give you a specific example. Tony Robbins has a reputation for being a mega-marketer, one that I think is well-deserved.  Despite all the hype though, I’ve found genuine value in his materials.  I’ve read all of his books and listened to several of his audio programs including his best-selling Personal Power II, and I’ve been to his firewalk seminar twice, once in 1996 and again in 1998.  I believe the firewalk is completely legit in the sense that your mental state is what keeps you from being burned.  I followed Tony’s method to the letter and didn’t burn my feet at all.  However, my wife screwed up and got knocked “out of state” just before taking that first step onto the red-hot coals, and she ended up with blistering second-degree burns on her feet.  She was up all night soaking her feet in the bathtub and had to miss half of the second day of the seminar.  So doing the firewalk isn’t merely a matter of walking blindly across the coals.  My wife is proof that you can get some bad burns by doing it incorrectly.  Tony uses it as a metaphor for breaking through limitations, but I felt that part was more hype than substance.  The firewalk was certainly a novel experience, but beyond that you cross into the realm of hype. The second time I went to the firewalk seminar, Tony offered every attendee a “free coaching session” with one of his staff coaches.  He personally pitched it as “my gift to you.”  To take advantage of it, you had to schedule a face-to-face appointment in the days after the event.  Since the seminar was semi-local to us, my wife and I went ahead and signed up.  Knowing Tony to be a great marketer, we figured the free coaching session was akin to the shareware concept of try-before-you-buy.  We expected to get a decent sample session and figured it would be followed by a basic sales pitch for more coaching, perhaps in the ratio of 90% substance to 10% sales pitch.  Many personal coaches offer a free session to potential new clients, so this isn’t unusual at all.  We were OK listening to a short sales pitch in exchange for the opportunity to ask a professional coach some interesting questions. However, when we attended the free coaching session later that week, we were terribly disappointed.  The free coaching amounted to the coach asking us some basic personal questions about our goals and then using our answers against us in an overly aggressive attempt to manipulate us into making a deposit to attend Tony’s far more expensive “Mastery University” seminars.  At the time we attended, the firewalk seminar (called “Unleash the Power Within”) was $500 per person.  Each Mastery University seminar ranged from $2500 to $5000.  Attending the more expensive seminars simply wasn’t an option for us at the time.  But when we pointed this out to the coaches, they became almost belligerent and proceeded to badger us.  “If you’re truly serious about wanting to live an outstanding life, you’ll find a way to come up with the money.  So what kind of deposit would you like to make today?”  Eventually my wife’s coach and my coach brought us together and attempted to use our relationship as a further means of manipulating us.  “Don’t you want your wife to be successful?  Don’t you care about her enough to do this for her?”  It was a truly disgusting display of avarice.  These coaches were nothing more than salespeople, probably generously commissioned.  There was no genuine coaching at all.  We felt we’d been lied to.  How would you feel in this situation? My wife and I left disappointed and jaded, and we obviously didn’t buy the seminars.  In fact, since that time (1998), neither of us has bought anything further from Tony Robbins.  I felt that Tony had personally lied in this case, and the use of this bait-and-switch tactic seriously damaged his credibility with me (which had previously been pretty good up until he crossed that line). However, despite this very disappointing experience, I still find value in Tony Robbins’ materials.  I know people who attended his expensive Mastery University seminars, and they spoke highly of the experience.  On balance I think Tony does more good than harm for this planet.  I don’t know him personally, so I can’t attest to his character other than what I’ve experienced.  However, I can say that I’ve gained a lot from using the techniques in his books, audio programs, and seminars.  It could be said that if there’s value in his materials, then he should do everything in his power to promote them.  But I’m not a subscriber to the theory that the end justifies the means, especially when it comes to self-help.  Although Tony may find such techniques profitable, I’m just not willing to do business like this, even if it means making less money.  Perhaps this will limit the long-term growth potential for my own personal development business, but that’s a decision I’m willing to live with.  I think what this experience showed me is that Tony Robbins is decidedly human.  While many people either love him or hate him (he tends to polarize people), to me he is a shade of gray, a mixture of the best and worst parts of us. And then there’s the black….  Authors who’ve been repeatedly accused of serious dishonesty related to their work include Kevin Trudeau, Robert Kiyosaki, and Robert Allen.  If you go to your local bookstore, you’ll probably find their products on the shelves right now.  In the contest between money and truth, money often wins. But there’s a way to avoid some of the sharks.  Before you get too attached to a particular author, I recommend researching them online first.  The internet reveals volumes on such people.  Just do a Google search on their name, and optionally tack on a word like “problems” or “scam” and see what comes up.  It’s pretty hard to keep a secret on the internet. Personally I feel people who have to lie about their results are making a big mistake.  I think it’s a self-esteem issue more than anything else.  Once when I was at a seminar and happened to see Dr. Barbara DeAngelis setting up her table, I chatted with her for 10-15 minutes about the professional speaking industry.  She acknowledged the shameful amount of falsehood — that people often seem brilliant on stage while their private lives are a shamble.  She gave me a great piece of advice that I took to heart, which is to simply be genuine.  Just be yourself.  Another speaker I respect named Darren LaCroix said that the key to professional speaking is to get so comfortable being on stage that you simply be yourself at all times. I think that the authors and speakers who reveal their true selves, even the parts they aren’t proud of, ultimately have the most profound impact on people.  And they’ll serve their own personal growth as well.  Instead of hiding from failure, we should embrace it.  More people can relate to failure than they can to instant, overnight success.  One of the things I’ve tried to share in this blog is that I’ve had some serious screw-ups in my life.  Heck, I was a convicted criminal.  But instead of pretending it never happened and trying to bury it in the past, I figure I might as well embrace it and share how I recovered from it.  And there was nothing fast and easy about it.  It took years, and it was very hard.  But the thought that my mistakes, even the ones I make now, might benefit other people through my writing makes me a lot less concerned about failure.  If I succeed, great.  If I fail, I’ve got a new blog entry.  Power trip Becoming a big name in self-help can yield tremendous power.  In some ways it’s like being a politician, where you can enjoy personal gains from influence peddling. I’ve experienced some of this ego-splashing effect from running this blog.  Every day I have people emailing me stories about how they used ideas from this site to improve their lives.  Every day other bloggers write something about me and the work I’m doing.  A Google search on my name yields 339,000 results at the time of this writing.  Just two weeks ago, my wife I and were quoted in the cover story in USA Today.  There’s a lot of energy coming my way.  And I’ve only been doing this for 17 months.  Imagine what it’s like for someone who’s been working in this field for decades. Fear of public speaking is a barrier to many people, but for those who overcome it, being up on stage in front of an audience can be a power trip in itself.  You’re the center of attention, and the audience members are focusing their energy on you.  You wield power over their emotions.  You can choose to make them laugh or cry.  Taking the audience on an emotional rollercoaster is a learnable skill, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of emotionally manipulating people for personal gain. I’ve no doubt that this ego trip gets the better of many people in this field.  Power is addictive.  And it’s not at all difficult to fall into the trap of doing things to secure more power while losing one’s integrity along the way.  I’d say that this is a very valid criticism of many self-help gurus.  When power becomes a higher priority than truth, we all suffer for it. A big part of my belief system is that human beings are like individual cells in a larger body.  A cell that gets out of control in pursuit of personal gain becomes cancerous, a threat to the survival of the whole body.  The best way for each cell to live is to devote itself to serving the highest good of all, even when that involves personal sacrifice.  But this only becomes truly realistic with an elevation in consciousness; it cannot be forced as in a system like communism.  Each cell must stop thinking of itself only as an individual — it must learn to identify with the whole body.  Instead of pursuing the enhancement of our own egos, we must aim to increase the power of the whole body — to make all of humanity stronger.  So instead of fighting this animal-like lust for power, we can each channel that energy into ambition for the whole body of consciousness. In practical terms this means that any would-be self-help guru must learn to pass up obvious avenues for personal gain if they don’t genuinely serve the greater good.  And again, this will happen once the person reaches a certain level of conciousness.  One of the best examples I can think of is Ram Dass.  Now there’s a man who really took service to new heights.  In fact, he actually went a bit overboard, giving away so much that he later needed to request help from friends to meet his basic needs after his stroke.  Millions of dollars in potential wealth passed through him, but he just let it flow through him where he thought it was most needed.  The self-help industry could certainly use more people like Ram Dass. As you might imagine, because of the traffic this site gets, I’ve received offers from potential business partners who want me to promote their products and services to my hundreds of thousands of readers.  They invite me to do things that would serve their interests and that would increase the size of my bank account, but if I determine that the deal wouldn’t serve the greater good, I always say no.  While my approach might seem foolish to others in business, the primary purpose of this business is to serve the highest good of all, not to make a profit.  In fact, that priority is written into Pavlina LLC’s formal operating agreement:  “The primary purpose of the Company is to serve the highest good of all humanity.”  While at this point it’s more of a symbolic act because there are no employees yet, as the business grows I intend to set up the structures necessary to ensure that the business follows this principle.  However, Pavlina LLC is not a non-profit.  I do want the business to generate wealth, but under no circumstances are profits to come before genuine service.  I’d rather go broke than allow that to happen.  Ultimately I think it’s possible to create a life where serving one’s own interests and serving the greater good are both congruent.  I’ve written about that in an earlier article called “How Selfish Are You?” Summary Overall I think the major criticisms of the self-help industry are valid.  There are a lot of problems in this field.  But I genuinely think that by being aware of these issues and by shining the light of consciousness on them, it’s possible to experience that value without all the downsides, both as a consumer of self-help materials and as a creator of them.  I hope to prove that in the years ahead. Is self-help a scam?  No, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that.  At its core self-help is very much legit.  There are some phonies around, but with the help of the internet, they’re becoming easier to spot.  And I’ve been seeing an increase in questions being raised about honesty, integrity, and service in this field, which is a very promising trend.  In fact, I think business in general is currently experiencing a major wake-up call about the importance of integrity.  Some people will remain asleep, but others are in the process of waking up.
    1239 Posted by UniqueThis
  • The self-help industry is frequently criticized for being poulated by scam artists who overpromise and underdeliver.  Is this a valid criticism?  Let’s take a deeper look into the dark side of self-help. False promises One of the biggest problems in the self-help industry is that promoters make false promises.  They promise hugely unrealistic results, as if reading a single book or attending a single seminar will produce all the permanent changes you need to make your life absolutely perfect.  And yet people still buy these products because they really want to believe the marketers are telling the truth. False promises are by no means unique to self-help.  Auto dealerships put the self-help industry to shame in this respect.  But despite the excessive marketing hype, with experience it becomes possible to see through the hype and find some real substance in self-help.  You can go to a bookstore and browse through the whole self-help section without paying a dime until you find something you feel is worthwhile.  You can check out books and audio programs from the library.  You can read this and many other web sites for free.  Many items for purchase come with unconditional money-back guarantees, which in my experience have always been honored.  You may still risk some of your time, but you don’t have to risk a lot of money if you don’t want to.  The story of Og Mandino is a great example.  He was a drunk who wandered into libraries to get out of the cold.  Eventually he began reading, and this helped turn his life around completely. While fast promises are a big problem in the self-help industry, they aren’t hard to recognize with a bit of practice.  Mostly I recommend using common sense.  If the promised results don’t sound realistic to you, they probably aren’t. One thing I’ve found is that certain authors are more hype-prone than others.  If you see a book promising to make you an instant millionaire, well, that just isn’t realistic for most people.  Not that you can’t become a millionaire — it’s just that it will probably take a lot more than reading one book to get there. One author I respect in the area of making promises is Brian Tracy.  While his offerings aren’t immune to marketing hype, I find that his materials tend to deliver fairly good value for the money.  I’ve gotten many usable ideas from him, particularly in the area of time management.  His book Time Power is one of the best — it’s essentially a transcript of his How to Master Your Time audio program, which was instrumental to me in graduating college in just three semesters.  My favorite Brian Tracy book, however, is Maximum Achievement, which I found motivational as well as practical.  I read it years ago and still use many of the ideas from that book today. Fast and Easy Perhaps the granddaddy of false promises is that of “fast and easy” results.  The words fast and easy simply don’t mesh with the realities of self-help.  Self-help has been so corrupted by this mindset that I prefer to distance myself from it by using the label “personal development” instead.  I really don’t want to be associated with the marketers who promise quick-fix solutions to very difficult human challenges. Right there on my home page, you’ll find the sentence, “Personal development is hard.”  Sadly such statements are rare in self-help circles.  And that’s mainly because “hard” doesn’t sell as well as “fast and easy.” The “fast and easy” model is what I call Personal Development for Dummies.  Let’s face it — there are a lot of dumb and gullible people in the world.  P.T. Barnum was right when he said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Actually P.T. Barnum never said that — his competitor David Hannum did.  But like the “fast and easy” mindset, this falsehood remains stuck in human consciousness, and it’s very difficult to dislodge. “Fast and easy” marketing preys on the worst parts of human nature, mainly our greed and our laziness.  Based on the terminology I use on this site (i.e. “Personal Development for Smart People”), dumb people lack the self-awareness to realize they’re being manipulated.  Smart people are able to see through this manipulation such that it doesn’t affect them much.  Somewhere in the middle are the semi-intelligent people who realize they’re being manipulated, but they overreact to it, such as by labeling the entire field of self-help as phony based on a few bad experiences.  The smart approach is to learn to see past the marketing hype, so you can bypass obvious fluff while still being able to unearth a true gem now and then. I don’t expect fast and easy marketing hype to go away.  There are a lot more dummies than smart people in the world, and those dummies have credit cards. No substance Putting aside the impossibility of delivering on promises that were false to begin with, there are many self-help works that simply don’t deliver much real value at all.  I know because I’ve read hundreds of such books, and I’ve listened to many lousy audio programs.  In this sense I’d say the self-help industry is no better or worse than most others.  There are a lot of lousy products on the market in just about any consumer field.  Self-help, when it fails to deliver, usually just fizzles and produces no result at all other than disappointment.  On the downside, however, it can actually harm your health and your pocketbook to follow bad advice blindly, but this certainly isn’t specific to self-help.  Eating unhealthy fast food will generally kill you more quickly than bad affirmations. Personally I found a hidden benefit in the lack of substance in most self-help literature.  These frequent disappointments helped me develop a more mature view towards my personal growth, one that is realistic for me but still very aggressive.  I’ve gotten much better at avoiding those materials that are pure fluff, while improving my odds of finding some real gems.  For example, here’s a simple rule you may wish to use:  Avoid buying health books with fat doctors on the cover.  And another:  Don’t enter a business deal if during negotiations, your potential partner seems preoccupied with complaining about how badly their last similar deal went and why it was entirely the fault of the other party.  You’ll be next! Truthfully there is some genuine wisdom to be found in self-help.  But it can take a lot of time to find the diamonds among the lumps of coal.  And one person’s diamond is another person’s coal.  Is it worth the effort though?  Yes, I definitely believe it is.  I wouldn’t be running this web site otherwise. Self-help has the potential to be very high leverage.  One good idea can transform your life for the better, even if it’s just a mindset change.  Before college I had never given much thought to the possibility that being sarcastic and skeptical about my future might limit my results.  I figured I was just being smart.  But I gradually became convinced those “attitude is everything” authors such as Earl Nightingale were right, and indeed they were.  The key was learning to have a positive attitude while still remaining rational and realistic, but that largely came about with time and experience.  It takes practice to achieve the right balance between underconfidence and overconfidence, but I do credit some of the books and audio programs I’ve devoured with helping me achieve this balance.  Most people are grossly underconfident, which is a very suboptimal way to live, so ideas that shift the pendulum closer to the middle are in my opinion very worthwhile. No contribution to society A corollary to the lack of substance is that self-help makes no real contribution to society.  Nothing is produced but hot air.  While this is a valid criticism in the case of false promises, I’ve personally found tremendous value in certain self-help ideas, and I know others have too.  One effective time management idea can boost the productivity of many people.  Imagine what companies like Enron or WorldCom might have done for society if their leaders had been sold on the concept of integrity.  Lies and falsehoods create no value or even destroy existing value.  Truth creates value.  And the true gems of self-help create tremendous value. Self-help is the pursuit of self-knowledge and self-understanding.  To say that it has no value is akin to saying that knowledge itself has none.  What value is created by knowing that the earth is round?  Quite a bit I’d say.  What value is created by learning to walk, talk, and interact with other human beings?  Again, it’s significant.  What value is created by self-confidence, self-esteem, and realistic but aggressive goal-setting?  A great deal…. When it’s at its worst, consuming self-help drivel is a waste of your time, energy, and money.  But when it’s good, it’s really good.  Exploring the world, educating ourselves, understanding who and what we are, and learning to communicate effectively with each other creates massive leverage for further value creation.  And personally I think this produces more genuine value than companies whose so-called value creation consists of health-destroying junk food, worthless products no one really needs, environmental toxins, resource pillaging, etc.  Which is more productive?  To transform a depressed person into a mature, confident one that will be twice as productive and a lot happier… or to manufacture a sofa?  You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Lack of integrity Even more serious than overhyped promises with no substance is the problem of dishonesty.  There are many shades of gray between mild exaggeration and outright lying, and each author falls into a different part of the spectrum.  Let me give you a specific example. Tony Robbins has a reputation for being a mega-marketer, one that I think is well-deserved.  Despite all the hype though, I’ve found genuine value in his materials.  I’ve read all of his books and listened to several of his audio programs including his best-selling Personal Power II, and I’ve been to his firewalk seminar twice, once in 1996 and again in 1998.  I believe the firewalk is completely legit in the sense that your mental state is what keeps you from being burned.  I followed Tony’s method to the letter and didn’t burn my feet at all.  However, my wife screwed up and got knocked “out of state” just before taking that first step onto the red-hot coals, and she ended up with blistering second-degree burns on her feet.  She was up all night soaking her feet in the bathtub and had to miss half of the second day of the seminar.  So doing the firewalk isn’t merely a matter of walking blindly across the coals.  My wife is proof that you can get some bad burns by doing it incorrectly.  Tony uses it as a metaphor for breaking through limitations, but I felt that part was more hype than substance.  The firewalk was certainly a novel experience, but beyond that you cross into the realm of hype. The second time I went to the firewalk seminar, Tony offered every attendee a “free coaching session” with one of his staff coaches.  He personally pitched it as “my gift to you.”  To take advantage of it, you had to schedule a face-to-face appointment in the days after the event.  Since the seminar was semi-local to us, my wife and I went ahead and signed up.  Knowing Tony to be a great marketer, we figured the free coaching session was akin to the shareware concept of try-before-you-buy.  We expected to get a decent sample session and figured it would be followed by a basic sales pitch for more coaching, perhaps in the ratio of 90% substance to 10% sales pitch.  Many personal coaches offer a free session to potential new clients, so this isn’t unusual at all.  We were OK listening to a short sales pitch in exchange for the opportunity to ask a professional coach some interesting questions. However, when we attended the free coaching session later that week, we were terribly disappointed.  The free coaching amounted to the coach asking us some basic personal questions about our goals and then using our answers against us in an overly aggressive attempt to manipulate us into making a deposit to attend Tony’s far more expensive “Mastery University” seminars.  At the time we attended, the firewalk seminar (called “Unleash the Power Within”) was $500 per person.  Each Mastery University seminar ranged from $2500 to $5000.  Attending the more expensive seminars simply wasn’t an option for us at the time.  But when we pointed this out to the coaches, they became almost belligerent and proceeded to badger us.  “If you’re truly serious about wanting to live an outstanding life, you’ll find a way to come up with the money.  So what kind of deposit would you like to make today?”  Eventually my wife’s coach and my coach brought us together and attempted to use our relationship as a further means of manipulating us.  “Don’t you want your wife to be successful?  Don’t you care about her enough to do this for her?”  It was a truly disgusting display of avarice.  These coaches were nothing more than salespeople, probably generously commissioned.  There was no genuine coaching at all.  We felt we’d been lied to.  How would you feel in this situation? My wife and I left disappointed and jaded, and we obviously didn’t buy the seminars.  In fact, since that time (1998), neither of us has bought anything further from Tony Robbins.  I felt that Tony had personally lied in this case, and the use of this bait-and-switch tactic seriously damaged his credibility with me (which had previously been pretty good up until he crossed that line). However, despite this very disappointing experience, I still find value in Tony Robbins’ materials.  I know people who attended his expensive Mastery University seminars, and they spoke highly of the experience.  On balance I think Tony does more good than harm for this planet.  I don’t know him personally, so I can’t attest to his character other than what I’ve experienced.  However, I can say that I’ve gained a lot from using the techniques in his books, audio programs, and seminars.  It could be said that if there’s value in his materials, then he should do everything in his power to promote them.  But I’m not a subscriber to the theory that the end justifies the means, especially when it comes to self-help.  Although Tony may find such techniques profitable, I’m just not willing to do business like this, even if it means making less money.  Perhaps this will limit the long-term growth potential for my own personal development business, but that’s a decision I’m willing to live with.  I think what this experience showed me is that Tony Robbins is decidedly human.  While many people either love him or hate him (he tends to polarize people), to me he is a shade of gray, a mixture of the best and worst parts of us. And then there’s the black….  Authors who’ve been repeatedly accused of serious dishonesty related to their work include Kevin Trudeau, Robert Kiyosaki, and Robert Allen.  If you go to your local bookstore, you’ll probably find their products on the shelves right now.  In the contest between money and truth, money often wins. But there’s a way to avoid some of the sharks.  Before you get too attached to a particular author, I recommend researching them online first.  The internet reveals volumes on such people.  Just do a Google search on their name, and optionally tack on a word like “problems” or “scam” and see what comes up.  It’s pretty hard to keep a secret on the internet. Personally I feel people who have to lie about their results are making a big mistake.  I think it’s a self-esteem issue more than anything else.  Once when I was at a seminar and happened to see Dr. Barbara DeAngelis setting up her table, I chatted with her for 10-15 minutes about the professional speaking industry.  She acknowledged the shameful amount of falsehood — that people often seem brilliant on stage while their private lives are a shamble.  She gave me a great piece of advice that I took to heart, which is to simply be genuine.  Just be yourself.  Another speaker I respect named Darren LaCroix said that the key to professional speaking is to get so comfortable being on stage that you simply be yourself at all times. I think that the authors and speakers who reveal their true selves, even the parts they aren’t proud of, ultimately have the most profound impact on people.  And they’ll serve their own personal growth as well.  Instead of hiding from failure, we should embrace it.  More people can relate to failure than they can to instant, overnight success.  One of the things I’ve tried to share in this blog is that I’ve had some serious screw-ups in my life.  Heck, I was a convicted criminal.  But instead of pretending it never happened and trying to bury it in the past, I figure I might as well embrace it and share how I recovered from it.  And there was nothing fast and easy about it.  It took years, and it was very hard.  But the thought that my mistakes, even the ones I make now, might benefit other people through my writing makes me a lot less concerned about failure.  If I succeed, great.  If I fail, I’ve got a new blog entry.  Power trip Becoming a big name in self-help can yield tremendous power.  In some ways it’s like being a politician, where you can enjoy personal gains from influence peddling. I’ve experienced some of this ego-splashing effect from running this blog.  Every day I have people emailing me stories about how they used ideas from this site to improve their lives.  Every day other bloggers write something about me and the work I’m doing.  A Google search on my name yields 339,000 results at the time of this writing.  Just two weeks ago, my wife I and were quoted in the cover story in USA Today.  There’s a lot of energy coming my way.  And I’ve only been doing this for 17 months.  Imagine what it’s like for someone who’s been working in this field for decades. Fear of public speaking is a barrier to many people, but for those who overcome it, being up on stage in front of an audience can be a power trip in itself.  You’re the center of attention, and the audience members are focusing their energy on you.  You wield power over their emotions.  You can choose to make them laugh or cry.  Taking the audience on an emotional rollercoaster is a learnable skill, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of emotionally manipulating people for personal gain. I’ve no doubt that this ego trip gets the better of many people in this field.  Power is addictive.  And it’s not at all difficult to fall into the trap of doing things to secure more power while losing one’s integrity along the way.  I’d say that this is a very valid criticism of many self-help gurus.  When power becomes a higher priority than truth, we all suffer for it. A big part of my belief system is that human beings are like individual cells in a larger body.  A cell that gets out of control in pursuit of personal gain becomes cancerous, a threat to the survival of the whole body.  The best way for each cell to live is to devote itself to serving the highest good of all, even when that involves personal sacrifice.  But this only becomes truly realistic with an elevation in consciousness; it cannot be forced as in a system like communism.  Each cell must stop thinking of itself only as an individual — it must learn to identify with the whole body.  Instead of pursuing the enhancement of our own egos, we must aim to increase the power of the whole body — to make all of humanity stronger.  So instead of fighting this animal-like lust for power, we can each channel that energy into ambition for the whole body of consciousness. In practical terms this means that any would-be self-help guru must learn to pass up obvious avenues for personal gain if they don’t genuinely serve the greater good.  And again, this will happen once the person reaches a certain level of conciousness.  One of the best examples I can think of is Ram Dass.  Now there’s a man who really took service to new heights.  In fact, he actually went a bit overboard, giving away so much that he later needed to request help from friends to meet his basic needs after his stroke.  Millions of dollars in potential wealth passed through him, but he just let it flow through him where he thought it was most needed.  The self-help industry could certainly use more people like Ram Dass. As you might imagine, because of the traffic this site gets, I’ve received offers from potential business partners who want me to promote their products and services to my hundreds of thousands of readers.  They invite me to do things that would serve their interests and that would increase the size of my bank account, but if I determine that the deal wouldn’t serve the greater good, I always say no.  While my approach might seem foolish to others in business, the primary purpose of this business is to serve the highest good of all, not to make a profit.  In fact, that priority is written into Pavlina LLC’s formal operating agreement:  “The primary purpose of the Company is to serve the highest good of all humanity.”  While at this point it’s more of a symbolic act because there are no employees yet, as the business grows I intend to set up the structures necessary to ensure that the business follows this principle.  However, Pavlina LLC is not a non-profit.  I do want the business to generate wealth, but under no circumstances are profits to come before genuine service.  I’d rather go broke than allow that to happen.  Ultimately I think it’s possible to create a life where serving one’s own interests and serving the greater good are both congruent.  I’ve written about that in an earlier article called “How Selfish Are You?” Summary Overall I think the major criticisms of the self-help industry are valid.  There are a lot of problems in this field.  But I genuinely think that by being aware of these issues and by shining the light of consciousness on them, it’s possible to experience that value without all the downsides, both as a consumer of self-help materials and as a creator of them.  I hope to prove that in the years ahead. Is self-help a scam?  No, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that.  At its core self-help is very much legit.  There are some phonies around, but with the help of the internet, they’re becoming easier to spot.  And I’ve been seeing an increase in questions being raised about honesty, integrity, and service in this field, which is a very promising trend.  In fact, I think business in general is currently experiencing a major wake-up call about the importance of integrity.  Some people will remain asleep, but others are in the process of waking up.
    Jul 12, 2011 1239
  • 12 Jul 2011
    There’s a time to be funny, and there’s a time not to be funny.  For most people it takes only basic common sense to know the difference.  But sometimes people use humor inappropriately.  Actually in most situations it’s not the use of humor that’s inappropriate but rather the type of humor.  Telling off-color jokes in a professional setting or harassing sensitive people in order to get a laugh at their expense are examples of humor that will often be considered inappropriate. Does this mean that humor has no place in a professional setting?  Not at all.  Humor is a wonderful lubricant for business relationships.  The key is to use humor to strengthen relationships instead of to weaken them. In this installment of the humor series, motivational humorist George Gilbert shares with us some tips on how to wisely use humor in the workplace in his article You’re Fired – Humor in the Workplace.
    1094 Posted by UniqueThis
  • There’s a time to be funny, and there’s a time not to be funny.  For most people it takes only basic common sense to know the difference.  But sometimes people use humor inappropriately.  Actually in most situations it’s not the use of humor that’s inappropriate but rather the type of humor.  Telling off-color jokes in a professional setting or harassing sensitive people in order to get a laugh at their expense are examples of humor that will often be considered inappropriate. Does this mean that humor has no place in a professional setting?  Not at all.  Humor is a wonderful lubricant for business relationships.  The key is to use humor to strengthen relationships instead of to weaken them. In this installment of the humor series, motivational humorist George Gilbert shares with us some tips on how to wisely use humor in the workplace in his article You’re Fired – Humor in the Workplace.
    Jul 12, 2011 1094
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Having been a non-employee for about 14 years now, I’ve made my share of stupid business mistakes.  I’ve also coached a number of people to start their own businesses, and I’ve seen many of them make similar mistakes.  This advice is geared towards small business owners, particularly people who are just starting (or about to start) their own business. 1.  Selling to the wrong people. While sales are important to the survival of any business, you don’t need to push your business on everyone you meet, including friends and family.  Furthermore, it’s a waste of time to try selling to people who simply don’t need what you’re offering. Selling to the wrong people includes trying to sell to everyone.  Some customers are much easier to sell to than others.  For example, my wife does web consulting for small businesses, and she’s learned that some clients are much harder to work with than others.  If a potential customer is broke and obsessively worried about every nickel they spend, if they want a web site but don’t know why, or if they simply don’t understand the Internet well enough, they won’t be a good client in the long run.  Feel free to say no to customers that are more trouble than they’re worth.  Let your competitors sell to them instead.  You’ll save yourself many headaches, and you’ll free up more time to focus on serving the best customers. Just because someone is interested in doing business with you doesn’t mean you should accept.  In my first year in business, I probably said yes to at least 50% of the people who approached me with a potential business relationship.  I wasted a lot of time pursuing deals that were too much of a stretch to begin with.  I accepted lunch invitations from random business people who just wanted to “see if there’s a way we could do something together.”  Virtually none of them made me a dime.  If you think a meeting is pointless, it probably is.  Don’t network with random people just because you think you’re supposed to network.  Today I accept such invitations less than 1/10 as often.  If an offer doesn’t excite me right away, I usually decline or ignore it.  Most relationships simply aren’t worth pursuing.  Learn to say no to the weak opportunities so you have the capacity to say yes to the golden opportunities. 2.  Spending too much money. Until you have a steady cashflow coming in, don’t spend your precious start-up cash unless it’s absolutely necessary.  I started my computer games business with about $20,000 cash (my own money), and it went fast; shortly thereafter I was using debt to finance the business.  Unfortunately, the original business model didn’t work, and it took five years before the business was generating a positive cashflow.  I soon learned that every dollar invested in the business was another dollar that eventually had to be recouped from sales. In 2004 I started this personal development business with only $9 cash even though I could have spent much more on it.  No fancy logo, no snazzy web design, no business cards or stationery.  I paid to register the domain name, and that was it.  That’s as much as I was willing to spend before I started generating a positive cashflow.  All other business expenditures came out of that cashflow. Your business should put cash into your pocket, so before you “invest” money into it, be clear on how you’re going to pull that cash back out again. Obviously some businesses require lots of cash to start, but in the age of the Internet business, you can very easily start a lucrative business for pocket change. 3.  Spending too little money. It’s also a mistake to be too stingy with your cash.  Don’t let frugality get in the way of efficiency.  Take advantage of skilled contractors who can do certain tasks more efficiently than you can.  Buy decent equipment when it’s clear you’ll get your money’s worth.  You don’t have to overspend on fancy furniture, but get functional furniture that helps you be more productive.  Don’t use an antiquated computer with outdated software that slows you down if you can afford something better. It takes time to develop the wisdom to know when you’re being too tight or too loose with your cash, so if you’re just starting out, get a second opinion.  Often the very thought of getting a second opinion makes the correct choice clear.  If you can’t justify the expenditure to someone you respect, it’s probably a mistake.  On the other hand, there are situations where it’s hard to justify not spending the cash. 4.  Putting on a fake front. Many one-person businesses refer to themselves as “we.”  That’s something a lot of new entrepreneurs do, but it isn’t necessary.  There’s nothing wrong with a one-person business, especially today.  My games business has mostly been a we over the years, but my personal development business is still an I.  My wife’s VegFamily Magazine business is a we, since she has a staff working for her, but her web consulting business is an I.  It’s perfectly OK to refer to your business as an I when you’re the only one working in it.  Pretending that you’re a we when you’re really an I is a bit silly.  It’s not going to gain you any respect in a way that matters.  Promoting yourself as an I may even be an advantage today, since people will know the buck stops with you, and if you make a promise, you’re the one who will carry it out.  Promises from a we sometimes aren’t worth very much. If you’re a newly self-employed person, don’t pretend you’re anything else.  Price your products and services fairly for your level of skills and talents.  Some newly self-employed people think they must become actors.  The business they promote to the world is pure fantasy.  Trying to fool your customers in this manner will only backfire.  If you’re so desperate for business that you need to lie, you shouldn’t be starting your own business.  If you can’t provide real value and charge fairly for it, don’t play the game of business.  Develop your skills a bit more first. 5.  Assuming a signed contract will be honored. I’ve made this mistake more than I care to admit.  I’ve had signed contracts with supposedly reputable corporations, and they weren’t worth squat when the CEO decided he wanted out of the deal, even for completely dishonorable reasons.  Sure I was in the right, but did I want to go to court to enforce it?  No, I’d rather continue doing meaningful work. A signed contract is just a piece of paper.  What’s behind a signed contract is a relationship.  If the relationship goes sour, the contract won’t save you.  The purpose of a contract is to clearly define everyone’s roles and commitments.  But it’s the relationship, not the paper, that ultimately enforces those commitments.  When I understood this, I focused more on relationships and worried less about what was on paper, and my business deals went much more smoothly.  Once you start falling back on the paper, the deal is already in trouble.  Creative (and lucrative) business deals almost always stray from the paper contracts that represent them.  One of my attorneys, who had worked on dozens of game development deals, told me that no deal he worked on ever followed the contract exactly; most weren’t even close.  And these were big money deals in many cases.  Business relationships are similar to other personal relationships — they twist and turn all over the place. Written contracts are still necessary, especially when dealing with larger corporations where people come and go, but they’re secondary to relationships.  Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that the contract is the deal.  The contract is only the deal’s shadow.  The real deal is the relationship.  Keep your business relationships in good order, and you won’t have to worry so much about what’s on paper. It’s sad but true that there are loads of scoundrels in business.  Many of them hold titles like CEO, President, and CFO.  There are indeed people out there who seem to care about nothing but money, and they will lie, cheat, and steal to get it.  In recent years some of the more despicable ones have gotten themselves indicted (or are already behind bars).  But there are plenty of others to whom the word honor has no meaning.  For example, in the computer gaming industry, it isn’t unusual for large publishers to feign interest in certain games and string the developers along.  They give the developer every indication that a deal is pending, but all the developer sees are delays and false verbal promises.  In reality the publisher only wants to keep the game off the market to keep it from competing with one of their own titles; they hope to cause the developer to miss the next Christmas season or to run out of cash and cancel the title altogether.  It happens.  Business, especially the entertainment industry, is not for the timid. 6.  Going against your intuition. Intuition is just as important in business as it is in other settings.  You’d be amazed at how many gigantic corporate deals are green-lighted or red-lighted because of some CEO’s gut feeling.  While you might think that logic is the language of business, that’s far from reality.  If you base all your business deals on hard logic and ignore your intuition, most likely you’ll be in for a world of hurt. We humans aren’t very logical to begin with.  We simply don’t have enough data to make truly logical decisions because business deals depend on human beings, and we don’t have a logical system for accurately predicting human behavior.  Not being able to predict how other humans will behave is a pretty big gap in our logic.  And intuition has to fill that gap.  The real performance of human beings is what makes or breaks business deals.  But to assume everyone will perform as expected is unrealistic in the extreme.  No deal ever goes perfectly. It’s hard to say no to a deal that seems juicy by the numbers when my gut is saying, “You’ll regret it,” but more often than not, I later see evidence my intuition was right all along.  Sometimes I just get a bad read on someone, and then years later, several people I know are complaining about being ripped off by that person. Intuition is a critical part of the decision-making process in business.  Since business deals depend on relationships, you need to get a read on the other people involved in any deal you consider.  If you get a bad read, walk away.  If you get a good read, proceed with caution. 7.  Being too formal. I’ll say it again.  Business is built on relationships.  In some settings a certain degree of formality is appropriate, but in most business situations being too formal only gets in the way.  Business relationships work best when there’s a decent human-to-human connection behind them. I think it’s a mistake to be too formal even when looking to establish new business relationships.  If someone mails me a letter that starts with “Dear Mr. Pavlina” and then goes on to explain a long-winded business proposal, I’ll usually just trash it, especially if it uses the word “we” a lot.  Better to fire off an email with a “Hi Steve,” and just ask me very informally if I’m interested in the kind of arrangement you’re seeking.  It saves time and opens the door to a real human relationship.  Human beings don’t want to build relationships with faceless corporations.  They only want relationships with other human beings… sometimes animals too I suppose. Treat your business relationships like friendships (or potential friendships).  Formality puts up walls, and walls don’t foster good business relationships.  No one is loyal to a wall… except the one in China. Formality is boring and tedious.  People want to enjoy their work.  If someone address me like a computer, I’ll respond in kind — by hitting delete.  But if someone demonstrates they have a real personality and a good sense of humor, a connection is far more likely. 8.  Sacrificing your personality quirks. In the early years of running my games business, I took myself too seriously and assumed that I had to act “businesslike” … whatever that meant.  Being self-employed was a weighty responsibility, and other people were counting on me.  Sink or swim, right? I started my games business in my early 20s, and people in their early 20s are invariably weird.  But I assumed that as a business owner, being weird wasn’t appropriate or acceptable.  So most of my business letters and emails looked like they were written by the same people who created Microsoft’s EULAs.  The job title of “President” really went to my head.  I learned how to function without a personality. It took a number of years, but eventually I became comfortable just being myself, especially after my games business became profitable.  Now that I’m a blogger, my personality quirks and unusual experiences are strengths.  My personal oddities give this blog a unique flavor.  If I were to take myself too seriously and write more formally, this blog would be very dull and would likely lose much of its audience. It’s perfectly OK to be your own weird self and to inject your own unique spirit into your business, especially if you’re in your teens or 20s.  Don’t be afraid to be more like Steve Jobs… and less like Steve Ballmer.  Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.  Ultimately you’ll enjoy your work much more if you attract the kinds of customers and partners that want to work with you for who you are — warts and all.  Send the people who only want to work with androids to your corporate competitors.  They deserve each other.  If other people can’t handle your weirdness, too bad for them.  Focus your energy on the people who can. 9.  Failing to focus on value creation. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the purpose of a business is to make money.  But the real purpose of a business is to create value.  While it’s possible to make money in the short run without creating much value, in the long run it’s unsustainable.  Even criminal organizations have to create value for someone.  When you know your business is just sucking value away from others without providing anything in return, it will erode your self-esteem, and the business won’t be much fun to run. Why does your business exist?  It exists to provide some sort of value, both for you and your customers.  The better you understand what value you’re trying to provide, the better you’ll be able to focus.  The basic value provided by my games business was cerebral entertainment.  The basic value provided by StevePavlina.com is personal growth.  Too often business owners aren’t clear on what value they’re trying to provide.  They just sell stuff and hope for the best.  That’s a lousy business model.  The world doesn’t need more selling or more stuff.  But it always needs and wants genuine value creation, and that’s where you should direct your efforts. Presently this web site contains over 400 free articles.  That’s a lot of value creation.  Thousands of people visit each day to receive some of that value.  Helping people grow is the business’ primary aim. 10.  Failing to optimize. Although value creation is essential to a sustainable business, it’s equally naive to assume you can simply focus on creating value, and the rest will take care of itself.  You may build a business that provides good value but loses money.  As a business owner, you need to find a way to deliver your value in a cost effective manner.  Most likely your first attempt will be very suboptimal.  You’ll waste too much time, money, and resources trying to produce and deliver your value.  That’s OK though.  Many businesses start out that way.  Just don’t let yours stay that way. Once you have a particular business process in place, pull it apart and re-optimize it from time to time.  Look for ways to make it more efficient.  Can you get it done in less time?  At less cost?  Can you do it less frequently?  Can you outsource it?  Can you dump the process altogether? I used to process credit orders for my games business manually.  I started the business in 1994, and when I’d receive an order through the mail or via my web site, I’d use some software to input and run the orders by modem.  At the end of each month, I’d manually tally the sales.  That worked fine when sales were low, but it became burdensome as more products were released and sales increased.  Several years ago I upgraded the process such that online orders were fully automated, including instant delivery of the game download.  All orders are recorded in a database, and I can view real-time reports to see how sales are doing for each product.  It took some work to set this up, but it was well worth it.  That one optimization saved me a lot of time and effort, and I don’t have to pay high fees for a third-party order processing service. Don’t fall into the trap of using archaic methods for doing routine tasks that could be automated, including inventory management, billing, accounting, order processing, communications, and marketing.  If you find yourself doing the same repetitive tasks month after month, make sure you put some effort into optimizing them.  Not optimizing is like throwing time and money down the drain.  It’s often much easier to save time and money than it is to create them. An Internet business has abundant opportunities for optimization because it’s so easy to try new things and measure the results.  In the first year after launching this site, I experimented quite a bit with Google Adsense.  Many people don’t like the ad layout on this site, but it’s the most effective layout I’ve tried so far.  I use it because it works.  Adding the donations page was another optimization.  Some people click ads, some people donate, and some do both.  So even though value creation is the primary aim of the business, this is still a for-profit business and needs to generate income in order to be sustainable.  If I don’t eat, I don’t write.  More money means more resources for ongoing value creation.  So value creation and optimization go hand-in-hand. It takes significant effort to build a successful business, but it’s also a tremendous growth experience.  I know many people who have quit their jobs to run their own businesses.  Many of them didn’t do as well as they’d hoped, but I don’t know any that regretted taking the plunge.  There’s simply no substitute for holding the reins of your own destiny.
    712 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Having been a non-employee for about 14 years now, I’ve made my share of stupid business mistakes.  I’ve also coached a number of people to start their own businesses, and I’ve seen many of them make similar mistakes.  This advice is geared towards small business owners, particularly people who are just starting (or about to start) their own business. 1.  Selling to the wrong people. While sales are important to the survival of any business, you don’t need to push your business on everyone you meet, including friends and family.  Furthermore, it’s a waste of time to try selling to people who simply don’t need what you’re offering. Selling to the wrong people includes trying to sell to everyone.  Some customers are much easier to sell to than others.  For example, my wife does web consulting for small businesses, and she’s learned that some clients are much harder to work with than others.  If a potential customer is broke and obsessively worried about every nickel they spend, if they want a web site but don’t know why, or if they simply don’t understand the Internet well enough, they won’t be a good client in the long run.  Feel free to say no to customers that are more trouble than they’re worth.  Let your competitors sell to them instead.  You’ll save yourself many headaches, and you’ll free up more time to focus on serving the best customers. Just because someone is interested in doing business with you doesn’t mean you should accept.  In my first year in business, I probably said yes to at least 50% of the people who approached me with a potential business relationship.  I wasted a lot of time pursuing deals that were too much of a stretch to begin with.  I accepted lunch invitations from random business people who just wanted to “see if there’s a way we could do something together.”  Virtually none of them made me a dime.  If you think a meeting is pointless, it probably is.  Don’t network with random people just because you think you’re supposed to network.  Today I accept such invitations less than 1/10 as often.  If an offer doesn’t excite me right away, I usually decline or ignore it.  Most relationships simply aren’t worth pursuing.  Learn to say no to the weak opportunities so you have the capacity to say yes to the golden opportunities. 2.  Spending too much money. Until you have a steady cashflow coming in, don’t spend your precious start-up cash unless it’s absolutely necessary.  I started my computer games business with about $20,000 cash (my own money), and it went fast; shortly thereafter I was using debt to finance the business.  Unfortunately, the original business model didn’t work, and it took five years before the business was generating a positive cashflow.  I soon learned that every dollar invested in the business was another dollar that eventually had to be recouped from sales. In 2004 I started this personal development business with only $9 cash even though I could have spent much more on it.  No fancy logo, no snazzy web design, no business cards or stationery.  I paid to register the domain name, and that was it.  That’s as much as I was willing to spend before I started generating a positive cashflow.  All other business expenditures came out of that cashflow. Your business should put cash into your pocket, so before you “invest” money into it, be clear on how you’re going to pull that cash back out again. Obviously some businesses require lots of cash to start, but in the age of the Internet business, you can very easily start a lucrative business for pocket change. 3.  Spending too little money. It’s also a mistake to be too stingy with your cash.  Don’t let frugality get in the way of efficiency.  Take advantage of skilled contractors who can do certain tasks more efficiently than you can.  Buy decent equipment when it’s clear you’ll get your money’s worth.  You don’t have to overspend on fancy furniture, but get functional furniture that helps you be more productive.  Don’t use an antiquated computer with outdated software that slows you down if you can afford something better. It takes time to develop the wisdom to know when you’re being too tight or too loose with your cash, so if you’re just starting out, get a second opinion.  Often the very thought of getting a second opinion makes the correct choice clear.  If you can’t justify the expenditure to someone you respect, it’s probably a mistake.  On the other hand, there are situations where it’s hard to justify not spending the cash. 4.  Putting on a fake front. Many one-person businesses refer to themselves as “we.”  That’s something a lot of new entrepreneurs do, but it isn’t necessary.  There’s nothing wrong with a one-person business, especially today.  My games business has mostly been a we over the years, but my personal development business is still an I.  My wife’s VegFamily Magazine business is a we, since she has a staff working for her, but her web consulting business is an I.  It’s perfectly OK to refer to your business as an I when you’re the only one working in it.  Pretending that you’re a we when you’re really an I is a bit silly.  It’s not going to gain you any respect in a way that matters.  Promoting yourself as an I may even be an advantage today, since people will know the buck stops with you, and if you make a promise, you’re the one who will carry it out.  Promises from a we sometimes aren’t worth very much. If you’re a newly self-employed person, don’t pretend you’re anything else.  Price your products and services fairly for your level of skills and talents.  Some newly self-employed people think they must become actors.  The business they promote to the world is pure fantasy.  Trying to fool your customers in this manner will only backfire.  If you’re so desperate for business that you need to lie, you shouldn’t be starting your own business.  If you can’t provide real value and charge fairly for it, don’t play the game of business.  Develop your skills a bit more first. 5.  Assuming a signed contract will be honored. I’ve made this mistake more than I care to admit.  I’ve had signed contracts with supposedly reputable corporations, and they weren’t worth squat when the CEO decided he wanted out of the deal, even for completely dishonorable reasons.  Sure I was in the right, but did I want to go to court to enforce it?  No, I’d rather continue doing meaningful work. A signed contract is just a piece of paper.  What’s behind a signed contract is a relationship.  If the relationship goes sour, the contract won’t save you.  The purpose of a contract is to clearly define everyone’s roles and commitments.  But it’s the relationship, not the paper, that ultimately enforces those commitments.  When I understood this, I focused more on relationships and worried less about what was on paper, and my business deals went much more smoothly.  Once you start falling back on the paper, the deal is already in trouble.  Creative (and lucrative) business deals almost always stray from the paper contracts that represent them.  One of my attorneys, who had worked on dozens of game development deals, told me that no deal he worked on ever followed the contract exactly; most weren’t even close.  And these were big money deals in many cases.  Business relationships are similar to other personal relationships — they twist and turn all over the place. Written contracts are still necessary, especially when dealing with larger corporations where people come and go, but they’re secondary to relationships.  Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that the contract is the deal.  The contract is only the deal’s shadow.  The real deal is the relationship.  Keep your business relationships in good order, and you won’t have to worry so much about what’s on paper. It’s sad but true that there are loads of scoundrels in business.  Many of them hold titles like CEO, President, and CFO.  There are indeed people out there who seem to care about nothing but money, and they will lie, cheat, and steal to get it.  In recent years some of the more despicable ones have gotten themselves indicted (or are already behind bars).  But there are plenty of others to whom the word honor has no meaning.  For example, in the computer gaming industry, it isn’t unusual for large publishers to feign interest in certain games and string the developers along.  They give the developer every indication that a deal is pending, but all the developer sees are delays and false verbal promises.  In reality the publisher only wants to keep the game off the market to keep it from competing with one of their own titles; they hope to cause the developer to miss the next Christmas season or to run out of cash and cancel the title altogether.  It happens.  Business, especially the entertainment industry, is not for the timid. 6.  Going against your intuition. Intuition is just as important in business as it is in other settings.  You’d be amazed at how many gigantic corporate deals are green-lighted or red-lighted because of some CEO’s gut feeling.  While you might think that logic is the language of business, that’s far from reality.  If you base all your business deals on hard logic and ignore your intuition, most likely you’ll be in for a world of hurt. We humans aren’t very logical to begin with.  We simply don’t have enough data to make truly logical decisions because business deals depend on human beings, and we don’t have a logical system for accurately predicting human behavior.  Not being able to predict how other humans will behave is a pretty big gap in our logic.  And intuition has to fill that gap.  The real performance of human beings is what makes or breaks business deals.  But to assume everyone will perform as expected is unrealistic in the extreme.  No deal ever goes perfectly. It’s hard to say no to a deal that seems juicy by the numbers when my gut is saying, “You’ll regret it,” but more often than not, I later see evidence my intuition was right all along.  Sometimes I just get a bad read on someone, and then years later, several people I know are complaining about being ripped off by that person. Intuition is a critical part of the decision-making process in business.  Since business deals depend on relationships, you need to get a read on the other people involved in any deal you consider.  If you get a bad read, walk away.  If you get a good read, proceed with caution. 7.  Being too formal. I’ll say it again.  Business is built on relationships.  In some settings a certain degree of formality is appropriate, but in most business situations being too formal only gets in the way.  Business relationships work best when there’s a decent human-to-human connection behind them. I think it’s a mistake to be too formal even when looking to establish new business relationships.  If someone mails me a letter that starts with “Dear Mr. Pavlina” and then goes on to explain a long-winded business proposal, I’ll usually just trash it, especially if it uses the word “we” a lot.  Better to fire off an email with a “Hi Steve,” and just ask me very informally if I’m interested in the kind of arrangement you’re seeking.  It saves time and opens the door to a real human relationship.  Human beings don’t want to build relationships with faceless corporations.  They only want relationships with other human beings… sometimes animals too I suppose. Treat your business relationships like friendships (or potential friendships).  Formality puts up walls, and walls don’t foster good business relationships.  No one is loyal to a wall… except the one in China. Formality is boring and tedious.  People want to enjoy their work.  If someone address me like a computer, I’ll respond in kind — by hitting delete.  But if someone demonstrates they have a real personality and a good sense of humor, a connection is far more likely. 8.  Sacrificing your personality quirks. In the early years of running my games business, I took myself too seriously and assumed that I had to act “businesslike” … whatever that meant.  Being self-employed was a weighty responsibility, and other people were counting on me.  Sink or swim, right? I started my games business in my early 20s, and people in their early 20s are invariably weird.  But I assumed that as a business owner, being weird wasn’t appropriate or acceptable.  So most of my business letters and emails looked like they were written by the same people who created Microsoft’s EULAs.  The job title of “President” really went to my head.  I learned how to function without a personality. It took a number of years, but eventually I became comfortable just being myself, especially after my games business became profitable.  Now that I’m a blogger, my personality quirks and unusual experiences are strengths.  My personal oddities give this blog a unique flavor.  If I were to take myself too seriously and write more formally, this blog would be very dull and would likely lose much of its audience. It’s perfectly OK to be your own weird self and to inject your own unique spirit into your business, especially if you’re in your teens or 20s.  Don’t be afraid to be more like Steve Jobs… and less like Steve Ballmer.  Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.  Ultimately you’ll enjoy your work much more if you attract the kinds of customers and partners that want to work with you for who you are — warts and all.  Send the people who only want to work with androids to your corporate competitors.  They deserve each other.  If other people can’t handle your weirdness, too bad for them.  Focus your energy on the people who can. 9.  Failing to focus on value creation. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the purpose of a business is to make money.  But the real purpose of a business is to create value.  While it’s possible to make money in the short run without creating much value, in the long run it’s unsustainable.  Even criminal organizations have to create value for someone.  When you know your business is just sucking value away from others without providing anything in return, it will erode your self-esteem, and the business won’t be much fun to run. Why does your business exist?  It exists to provide some sort of value, both for you and your customers.  The better you understand what value you’re trying to provide, the better you’ll be able to focus.  The basic value provided by my games business was cerebral entertainment.  The basic value provided by StevePavlina.com is personal growth.  Too often business owners aren’t clear on what value they’re trying to provide.  They just sell stuff and hope for the best.  That’s a lousy business model.  The world doesn’t need more selling or more stuff.  But it always needs and wants genuine value creation, and that’s where you should direct your efforts. Presently this web site contains over 400 free articles.  That’s a lot of value creation.  Thousands of people visit each day to receive some of that value.  Helping people grow is the business’ primary aim. 10.  Failing to optimize. Although value creation is essential to a sustainable business, it’s equally naive to assume you can simply focus on creating value, and the rest will take care of itself.  You may build a business that provides good value but loses money.  As a business owner, you need to find a way to deliver your value in a cost effective manner.  Most likely your first attempt will be very suboptimal.  You’ll waste too much time, money, and resources trying to produce and deliver your value.  That’s OK though.  Many businesses start out that way.  Just don’t let yours stay that way. Once you have a particular business process in place, pull it apart and re-optimize it from time to time.  Look for ways to make it more efficient.  Can you get it done in less time?  At less cost?  Can you do it less frequently?  Can you outsource it?  Can you dump the process altogether? I used to process credit orders for my games business manually.  I started the business in 1994, and when I’d receive an order through the mail or via my web site, I’d use some software to input and run the orders by modem.  At the end of each month, I’d manually tally the sales.  That worked fine when sales were low, but it became burdensome as more products were released and sales increased.  Several years ago I upgraded the process such that online orders were fully automated, including instant delivery of the game download.  All orders are recorded in a database, and I can view real-time reports to see how sales are doing for each product.  It took some work to set this up, but it was well worth it.  That one optimization saved me a lot of time and effort, and I don’t have to pay high fees for a third-party order processing service. Don’t fall into the trap of using archaic methods for doing routine tasks that could be automated, including inventory management, billing, accounting, order processing, communications, and marketing.  If you find yourself doing the same repetitive tasks month after month, make sure you put some effort into optimizing them.  Not optimizing is like throwing time and money down the drain.  It’s often much easier to save time and money than it is to create them. An Internet business has abundant opportunities for optimization because it’s so easy to try new things and measure the results.  In the first year after launching this site, I experimented quite a bit with Google Adsense.  Many people don’t like the ad layout on this site, but it’s the most effective layout I’ve tried so far.  I use it because it works.  Adding the donations page was another optimization.  Some people click ads, some people donate, and some do both.  So even though value creation is the primary aim of the business, this is still a for-profit business and needs to generate income in order to be sustainable.  If I don’t eat, I don’t write.  More money means more resources for ongoing value creation.  So value creation and optimization go hand-in-hand. It takes significant effort to build a successful business, but it’s also a tremendous growth experience.  I know many people who have quit their jobs to run their own businesses.  Many of them didn’t do as well as they’d hoped, but I don’t know any that regretted taking the plunge.  There’s simply no substitute for holding the reins of your own destiny.
    Jul 12, 2011 712
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Today I have a special treat for you — an exclusive interview with multi-millionaire Marc Allen.  Marc Allen is the president and co-founder of New World Library, which has published some outstanding books on personal development and spirituality, including Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization, and Dan Millman’s The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.  These are some of my all-time favorite books. At age 30 Marc Allen and Shakti Gawain launched New World Library with no capital, and today the company is a major independent publisher with the motto:  “Publishing books and audio and video projects that change lives.”  A published author himself, Marc has written several books, including The Millionaire Course, Visionary Business, A Visionary Life, and The Ten Percent Solution.  Additionally, Marc is an accomplished musician and co-founder of Watercourse Media. Yet despite these significant accomplishments, Marc will be the first to admit that he is definitely NOT a type-A workaholic.  He sleeps until 11am.  He doesn’t get into the office until after 1pm.  He doesn’t work on Mondays.  Instead of putting in long hours at the office, he uses the power of intention, visualization, and affirmation to attract what he wants. Marc has a new book out called The Type-Z Guide to Success: A Lazy Person’s Manifesto for Wealth and Fulfillment.  Marc’s book The Millionaire Course is what inspired me to launch the Million Dollar Experiment, which just recently manifested a collective total of $1,000,000 for its public participants.  So I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Marc in connection with this conscious manifestation experiment. 1. Why did you intend to become a millionaire?  What was your motivation? I always knew that being a millionaire was not all that important — there are far more things that are far more important, such as family, friends, and doing what you love to do in life. I knew early on that the most important thing for me was to do what I loved to do in my life, and make that work somehow. And it always has. That bit of knowledge has served me very well. Kent Nerburn said a brilliant thing about money in his book Letters to My Son: “Money is central to our lives. Yet money is not of central importance. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the lasting values that make life worth living.” This is good to keep in mind, always. It helps us keep money in the proper perspective. It is a very, very good servant but a terrible master. That being said, I realized in my early thirties that being a millionaire is a very good goal. It’s a solid, concrete number that your subconscious mind can grab hold of. My motivation for that goal was simple: It dawned on me one day that I wanted to write books and write and record music, and be successful enough to continue to do it for the rest of my life — and doing what I love to do is far easier with substantial reserves in liquid assets than it is with no money. So I decided to become a millionaire. That became a clear goal in my mind. When you make a clear goal, and when you remind yourself of it enough so that your subconscious mind grasps it, an amazing, mysterious thing happens. Some part of you starts working backwards from that number, and finding how to achieve it. It’s difficult for me to explain how I feel the process works, but when you decide to become a millionaire, you automatically start asking yourself how you can reach that goal. And once you start asking that question, you start getting answers. All kinds of possibilities become obvious to you — they were always there, but you never saw them before because you weren’t looking for them. 2. What does it take to become a millionaire today? Intention. That’s all it ever takes; that’s all it has ever taken for anyone at any time. There are just as many opportunities today as there were a generation ago, and a hundred years ago. As Napoleon Hill said, “Within every adversity is the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” I put these words, years ago, on my desk in big letters — and within a year I was a millionaire: Within every adversity is an equal or greater benefit. Within every problem is an opportunity. Even in the knocks of life, we can find great gifts. When you understand those words, it completely turns your thinking around. You start to see benefits, opportunities, and gifts everywhere! 3. What prevents people from attracting greater wealth into their lives? Our own doubts and fears are the only things that prevent us from attracting greater wealth or achieving any expansive goal. The vast majority of the work it takes to succeed is internal — dealing with our doubts and fears. Here’s another thing I realized in my early thirties that turned my life around: Our doubts and fears are not true in themselves. Our deepest beliefs about ourselves and the nature of our world are not true in themselves, but our thinking makes them true in our experience. We can change our thinking and change even our deepest core beliefs. The truth is, I’ve come to believe, that everyone is really a creative genius, in some unique way. Everyone has gifts they were born with. Everyone has dreams, desires, goals that are attainable — it’s just a matter of focusing our powerful, creative mind in the right direction, going for that dream, that goal, and then dealing with the doubts and fears that naturally arise in everyone as soon as we dare to dream an expansive future and start taking steps toward it. 4. In your book The Millionaire Course, why do you recommend adding certain phrases to intentions (i.e. “in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own perfect time, for the highest good of all…”)? I read about the power of affirmations years ago, in a book by Catherine Ponder, a Unity Church minister. She suggested adding these words to every affirmation: “In an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own perfect time, for the highest good of all.” The day I turned thirty changed my life. I was unemployed, I had no money, and I was struggling every month to come up with $65 to pay the rent on my one-room apartment in the slums of Oakland, California. I took out a sheet of paper and wrote down my “ideal scene” — the best life for myself I could possibly imagine at the time. Then I took out another sheet of paper and listed all the goals I’d need to reach to achieve that ideal scene. Then I listed each goal as an affirmation, as if it was coming into being in the present — “I am now creating a successful company…. I am now writing a successful book…. I am now creating a beautiful album of music…. I am now getting into real estate, and finding a starter house to buy….” I began each affirmation with the words, “In an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way….” And sometimes I’d add the words, “In its own perfect time, for the highest good of all….” Over the years I came to realize that those four words — easy, relaxed, healthy, and positive — in themselves, when repeated often, overcame a lot of my doubts and fears. “It won’t be easy,” whisper our doubts and fears. “It certainly won’t be relaxed — achieving success is stressful! You’ve got to work really, really hard to succeed,” etc. etc. Affirming, over and over, “I am now creating a successful career (or whatever) in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way” will over time overcome a huge number of your doubts and fears. This is not just theory — this is true in my experience, and in the experience of a great many others. You don’t have to believe in any of this — just try it for yourself, and you’ll see the results! 5. What is The Ten Percent Solution, and why do you recommend it? There’s nothing new in it. It’s an ancient and powerful teaching that has been said a million times, but most people still don’t do it: Save at least 10% of your income. Start now. If you have a windfall of some kind, save at least 50% of it. A good way to begin is to set up two checking accounts. Put your regular income into your main account, and immediately transfer at least 10% of every deposit into your savings. I’ve been doing this for years. Always round up so it’s over 10%: If you’re depositing $930, for example, put $100 into your savings [ed. 10% of $930 = $93, so round up to $100]. Over time, it really adds up. If you’re in credit card debt, you can use your savings to pay it off. But get into the habit of saving! At first, you may have to cheat a bit and go into your savings to pay your monthly expenses. But keep saving, and you’re sending a powerful message to your subconscious mind: “I am now living on less than 90% of my income, and saving for my future is a priority.” Within a few months, you’ll find you can start building your savings. Then you start investing it for a better return in stocks, bonds, real estate. That’s the one simple key to financial success! And once you start saving, you’re ready for the next step: Give away at least 10% of your income. The benefits of this simple act are tremendous, for yourself and for the world. Once you’re saving 10%, set up a third checking account for donations, and put another 10% into that. Now you’re instructing your powerful subconscious mind that you’re living on less than 80% of your income, saving over 10%, and giving 10% away to people and organizations who are doing something beneficial in the world. These two simple steps, saving and giving away 10% of your income, are great keys to a better life and a better world. As Charles Colton said, “If universal charity prevailed, Earth would be a heaven, and hell a fable.” 6. What role, if any, has meditation played in your experience of wealth creation? Meditation has played a major role in my life and in my success. The way I look at it, there are two types of meditation: (1) The first is what is normally thought of as meditation, where you simply let all thought go, let all “doing” go, and just be in the moment. It’s very simple. When you do it, you find — even if just for a moment at first — that stillness that is beyond thought. An easy way to get it is to do what Eckhart Tolle keeps recommending in The Power of Now: simply connect with your “presence” or “being” within. The benefits of this are endless, for everyone. Another simple way to get into this meditation is something I learned from a Zen teacher: Just stare at something, or close your eyes, and let all thought go as you exhale. For one exhalation, anyone can let their thoughts go, at least for a moment. Do it over and over, and you can learn at will to go beyond the constant stream of thoughts that most of us have throughout the day. (2) The second type is “creative meditation,” the kind of thing Shakti Gawain wrote so beautifully about in Creative Visualization. This has been invaluable to me over the years: I imagined myself, over and over — even way back when I was a total poverty case — living a life of ease, strolling around my big white house on a hill, with nothing to do, sitting on several million worth of assets. I visualized this repeatedly, and it came true in my life. With every project I set out to do, I visualize its completion. I see it finished, and successful. Then the steps I need to take to make it happen become obvious. Along the way, an intention forms that overcomes every apparent obstacle. 7. What does your typical workday look like? I’ve always been fairly lazy. I’ve never been a morning person. I sleep usually until about 11:00, and take a few hours to get up and get going. Tuesday through Friday, I usually go into my office; I get there usually between 1:00 and 2:30. I never work over thirty focused hours a week. I never do work of any kind on Sunday — that’s my day for family and for rest. And I take every Monday off — that’s my day for myself, for my “mini-retreat.” I never have any plans on a Monday, except I usually have a massage in the late afternoon and I have dinner with my family and put my son to bed. I stay at home on Mondays, and I don’t have internet access or email at home, so I have time for rest, rejuvenation, writing, reflecting, playing music, staring at the clouds, doing nothing. By Tuesday afternoon, I am ready to rock! I come into the office energized, whip through a few hundred emails, and take care of what needs to be done to keep my publishing company, New World Library, growing and blossoming, and to launch my new enterprise, SuccessWithEase.net. 8. What do you believe is the relationship between wealth and spirituality?  Is there a connection between the two? For years I feared that the pursuit of wealth would hamper my spiritual life, distract me from my spiritual path; that was one of the limiting beliefs I had that prevented me from succeeding. But I realized somewhere in my early thirties that that belief, like all others, wasn’t true in itself. There is no conflict between wealth and spirituality, unless you create it in your mind. I can pursue financial success and still have plenty of time as well for my spiritual life. And, ultimately, they’re not even two separate things: My spiritual life encompasses every moment of each day and night. Teilhard de Chardin said one of my favorite quotes, “We are not physical beings who may have a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.” We are physical beings with physical needs, emotional beings with emotional needs, mental beings with the power to fulfill our needs, and spiritual beings, every moment. Acknowledging the spiritual in ourselves and in others gives us purpose in life, and puts everything into the proper perspective. We are not here just to become wealthy, isolated individuals. We are part of a great, mysterious, wondrous whole, and we are here to love and serve ourselves, humanity, and the whole planet, the whole environment. That’s the right perspective; that’s what is important in life. The single most brilliant phrase I ever heard was from Ramana Maharshi, one of the greatest teachers in India in the last century. He said: “The end of all wisdom is love, love, love.” That’s what is important in life. If your education doesn’t result in love — for all of humanity, for the whole world — then your education hasn’t been complete. 9. What advice would you give to participants in the Million Dollar Experiment (i.e. people who are intending to become millionaires for the highest good of all)? Go for it! Go for your highest dreams. You’ll never regret it. As Goethe said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Take risks. Don’t fear failure — every successful person I’ve ever known has had their share of failures. If you keep intending to be successful, each failure is just another stepping stone on your way to your inevitable success. Burt Lahr, the comedian and actor, put it this way: “Keep on the merry-go-round long enough and you’re bound to catch the brass ring.” 10. What projects are you working on now that may be of interest to participants in the Million Dollar Experiment? The Millionaire Course remains my main work — I put everything I know into that book. The three books I wrote before it have been very valuable for a lot of people, too: Visionary Business, A Visionary Life, and The Ten Percent Solution. My latest book is really original and fun: The Type-Z Guide to Success: A Lazy Person’s Manifesto for Wealth and Fulfillment. It’s a short, breezy read designed for lazy people and for Type A’s who want to get to the point quickly. My music is always a big part of my life, too. My latest album is called Awakening; it’s beautiful instrumental music (if I do say so myself), and you can sample that and all the rest of my music for free at Watercourse Media. Enjoy! And best wishes for the greatest success you can possibly imagine. SP:  Thank you so much, Marc.  Your continued success is an inspiration to us all!
    819 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Today I have a special treat for you — an exclusive interview with multi-millionaire Marc Allen.  Marc Allen is the president and co-founder of New World Library, which has published some outstanding books on personal development and spirituality, including Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization, and Dan Millman’s The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.  These are some of my all-time favorite books. At age 30 Marc Allen and Shakti Gawain launched New World Library with no capital, and today the company is a major independent publisher with the motto:  “Publishing books and audio and video projects that change lives.”  A published author himself, Marc has written several books, including The Millionaire Course, Visionary Business, A Visionary Life, and The Ten Percent Solution.  Additionally, Marc is an accomplished musician and co-founder of Watercourse Media. Yet despite these significant accomplishments, Marc will be the first to admit that he is definitely NOT a type-A workaholic.  He sleeps until 11am.  He doesn’t get into the office until after 1pm.  He doesn’t work on Mondays.  Instead of putting in long hours at the office, he uses the power of intention, visualization, and affirmation to attract what he wants. Marc has a new book out called The Type-Z Guide to Success: A Lazy Person’s Manifesto for Wealth and Fulfillment.  Marc’s book The Millionaire Course is what inspired me to launch the Million Dollar Experiment, which just recently manifested a collective total of $1,000,000 for its public participants.  So I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Marc in connection with this conscious manifestation experiment. 1. Why did you intend to become a millionaire?  What was your motivation? I always knew that being a millionaire was not all that important — there are far more things that are far more important, such as family, friends, and doing what you love to do in life. I knew early on that the most important thing for me was to do what I loved to do in my life, and make that work somehow. And it always has. That bit of knowledge has served me very well. Kent Nerburn said a brilliant thing about money in his book Letters to My Son: “Money is central to our lives. Yet money is not of central importance. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the lasting values that make life worth living.” This is good to keep in mind, always. It helps us keep money in the proper perspective. It is a very, very good servant but a terrible master. That being said, I realized in my early thirties that being a millionaire is a very good goal. It’s a solid, concrete number that your subconscious mind can grab hold of. My motivation for that goal was simple: It dawned on me one day that I wanted to write books and write and record music, and be successful enough to continue to do it for the rest of my life — and doing what I love to do is far easier with substantial reserves in liquid assets than it is with no money. So I decided to become a millionaire. That became a clear goal in my mind. When you make a clear goal, and when you remind yourself of it enough so that your subconscious mind grasps it, an amazing, mysterious thing happens. Some part of you starts working backwards from that number, and finding how to achieve it. It’s difficult for me to explain how I feel the process works, but when you decide to become a millionaire, you automatically start asking yourself how you can reach that goal. And once you start asking that question, you start getting answers. All kinds of possibilities become obvious to you — they were always there, but you never saw them before because you weren’t looking for them. 2. What does it take to become a millionaire today? Intention. That’s all it ever takes; that’s all it has ever taken for anyone at any time. There are just as many opportunities today as there were a generation ago, and a hundred years ago. As Napoleon Hill said, “Within every adversity is the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” I put these words, years ago, on my desk in big letters — and within a year I was a millionaire: Within every adversity is an equal or greater benefit. Within every problem is an opportunity. Even in the knocks of life, we can find great gifts. When you understand those words, it completely turns your thinking around. You start to see benefits, opportunities, and gifts everywhere! 3. What prevents people from attracting greater wealth into their lives? Our own doubts and fears are the only things that prevent us from attracting greater wealth or achieving any expansive goal. The vast majority of the work it takes to succeed is internal — dealing with our doubts and fears. Here’s another thing I realized in my early thirties that turned my life around: Our doubts and fears are not true in themselves. Our deepest beliefs about ourselves and the nature of our world are not true in themselves, but our thinking makes them true in our experience. We can change our thinking and change even our deepest core beliefs. The truth is, I’ve come to believe, that everyone is really a creative genius, in some unique way. Everyone has gifts they were born with. Everyone has dreams, desires, goals that are attainable — it’s just a matter of focusing our powerful, creative mind in the right direction, going for that dream, that goal, and then dealing with the doubts and fears that naturally arise in everyone as soon as we dare to dream an expansive future and start taking steps toward it. 4. In your book The Millionaire Course, why do you recommend adding certain phrases to intentions (i.e. “in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own perfect time, for the highest good of all…”)? I read about the power of affirmations years ago, in a book by Catherine Ponder, a Unity Church minister. She suggested adding these words to every affirmation: “In an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own perfect time, for the highest good of all.” The day I turned thirty changed my life. I was unemployed, I had no money, and I was struggling every month to come up with $65 to pay the rent on my one-room apartment in the slums of Oakland, California. I took out a sheet of paper and wrote down my “ideal scene” — the best life for myself I could possibly imagine at the time. Then I took out another sheet of paper and listed all the goals I’d need to reach to achieve that ideal scene. Then I listed each goal as an affirmation, as if it was coming into being in the present — “I am now creating a successful company…. I am now writing a successful book…. I am now creating a beautiful album of music…. I am now getting into real estate, and finding a starter house to buy….” I began each affirmation with the words, “In an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way….” And sometimes I’d add the words, “In its own perfect time, for the highest good of all….” Over the years I came to realize that those four words — easy, relaxed, healthy, and positive — in themselves, when repeated often, overcame a lot of my doubts and fears. “It won’t be easy,” whisper our doubts and fears. “It certainly won’t be relaxed — achieving success is stressful! You’ve got to work really, really hard to succeed,” etc. etc. Affirming, over and over, “I am now creating a successful career (or whatever) in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way” will over time overcome a huge number of your doubts and fears. This is not just theory — this is true in my experience, and in the experience of a great many others. You don’t have to believe in any of this — just try it for yourself, and you’ll see the results! 5. What is The Ten Percent Solution, and why do you recommend it? There’s nothing new in it. It’s an ancient and powerful teaching that has been said a million times, but most people still don’t do it: Save at least 10% of your income. Start now. If you have a windfall of some kind, save at least 50% of it. A good way to begin is to set up two checking accounts. Put your regular income into your main account, and immediately transfer at least 10% of every deposit into your savings. I’ve been doing this for years. Always round up so it’s over 10%: If you’re depositing $930, for example, put $100 into your savings [ed. 10% of $930 = $93, so round up to $100]. Over time, it really adds up. If you’re in credit card debt, you can use your savings to pay it off. But get into the habit of saving! At first, you may have to cheat a bit and go into your savings to pay your monthly expenses. But keep saving, and you’re sending a powerful message to your subconscious mind: “I am now living on less than 90% of my income, and saving for my future is a priority.” Within a few months, you’ll find you can start building your savings. Then you start investing it for a better return in stocks, bonds, real estate. That’s the one simple key to financial success! And once you start saving, you’re ready for the next step: Give away at least 10% of your income. The benefits of this simple act are tremendous, for yourself and for the world. Once you’re saving 10%, set up a third checking account for donations, and put another 10% into that. Now you’re instructing your powerful subconscious mind that you’re living on less than 80% of your income, saving over 10%, and giving 10% away to people and organizations who are doing something beneficial in the world. These two simple steps, saving and giving away 10% of your income, are great keys to a better life and a better world. As Charles Colton said, “If universal charity prevailed, Earth would be a heaven, and hell a fable.” 6. What role, if any, has meditation played in your experience of wealth creation? Meditation has played a major role in my life and in my success. The way I look at it, there are two types of meditation: (1) The first is what is normally thought of as meditation, where you simply let all thought go, let all “doing” go, and just be in the moment. It’s very simple. When you do it, you find — even if just for a moment at first — that stillness that is beyond thought. An easy way to get it is to do what Eckhart Tolle keeps recommending in The Power of Now: simply connect with your “presence” or “being” within. The benefits of this are endless, for everyone. Another simple way to get into this meditation is something I learned from a Zen teacher: Just stare at something, or close your eyes, and let all thought go as you exhale. For one exhalation, anyone can let their thoughts go, at least for a moment. Do it over and over, and you can learn at will to go beyond the constant stream of thoughts that most of us have throughout the day. (2) The second type is “creative meditation,” the kind of thing Shakti Gawain wrote so beautifully about in Creative Visualization. This has been invaluable to me over the years: I imagined myself, over and over — even way back when I was a total poverty case — living a life of ease, strolling around my big white house on a hill, with nothing to do, sitting on several million worth of assets. I visualized this repeatedly, and it came true in my life. With every project I set out to do, I visualize its completion. I see it finished, and successful. Then the steps I need to take to make it happen become obvious. Along the way, an intention forms that overcomes every apparent obstacle. 7. What does your typical workday look like? I’ve always been fairly lazy. I’ve never been a morning person. I sleep usually until about 11:00, and take a few hours to get up and get going. Tuesday through Friday, I usually go into my office; I get there usually between 1:00 and 2:30. I never work over thirty focused hours a week. I never do work of any kind on Sunday — that’s my day for family and for rest. And I take every Monday off — that’s my day for myself, for my “mini-retreat.” I never have any plans on a Monday, except I usually have a massage in the late afternoon and I have dinner with my family and put my son to bed. I stay at home on Mondays, and I don’t have internet access or email at home, so I have time for rest, rejuvenation, writing, reflecting, playing music, staring at the clouds, doing nothing. By Tuesday afternoon, I am ready to rock! I come into the office energized, whip through a few hundred emails, and take care of what needs to be done to keep my publishing company, New World Library, growing and blossoming, and to launch my new enterprise, SuccessWithEase.net. 8. What do you believe is the relationship between wealth and spirituality?  Is there a connection between the two? For years I feared that the pursuit of wealth would hamper my spiritual life, distract me from my spiritual path; that was one of the limiting beliefs I had that prevented me from succeeding. But I realized somewhere in my early thirties that that belief, like all others, wasn’t true in itself. There is no conflict between wealth and spirituality, unless you create it in your mind. I can pursue financial success and still have plenty of time as well for my spiritual life. And, ultimately, they’re not even two separate things: My spiritual life encompasses every moment of each day and night. Teilhard de Chardin said one of my favorite quotes, “We are not physical beings who may have a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.” We are physical beings with physical needs, emotional beings with emotional needs, mental beings with the power to fulfill our needs, and spiritual beings, every moment. Acknowledging the spiritual in ourselves and in others gives us purpose in life, and puts everything into the proper perspective. We are not here just to become wealthy, isolated individuals. We are part of a great, mysterious, wondrous whole, and we are here to love and serve ourselves, humanity, and the whole planet, the whole environment. That’s the right perspective; that’s what is important in life. The single most brilliant phrase I ever heard was from Ramana Maharshi, one of the greatest teachers in India in the last century. He said: “The end of all wisdom is love, love, love.” That’s what is important in life. If your education doesn’t result in love — for all of humanity, for the whole world — then your education hasn’t been complete. 9. What advice would you give to participants in the Million Dollar Experiment (i.e. people who are intending to become millionaires for the highest good of all)? Go for it! Go for your highest dreams. You’ll never regret it. As Goethe said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Take risks. Don’t fear failure — every successful person I’ve ever known has had their share of failures. If you keep intending to be successful, each failure is just another stepping stone on your way to your inevitable success. Burt Lahr, the comedian and actor, put it this way: “Keep on the merry-go-round long enough and you’re bound to catch the brass ring.” 10. What projects are you working on now that may be of interest to participants in the Million Dollar Experiment? The Millionaire Course remains my main work — I put everything I know into that book. The three books I wrote before it have been very valuable for a lot of people, too: Visionary Business, A Visionary Life, and The Ten Percent Solution. My latest book is really original and fun: The Type-Z Guide to Success: A Lazy Person’s Manifesto for Wealth and Fulfillment. It’s a short, breezy read designed for lazy people and for Type A’s who want to get to the point quickly. My music is always a big part of my life, too. My latest album is called Awakening; it’s beautiful instrumental music (if I do say so myself), and you can sample that and all the rest of my music for free at Watercourse Media. Enjoy! And best wishes for the greatest success you can possibly imagine. SP:  Thank you so much, Marc.  Your continued success is an inspiration to us all!
    Jul 12, 2011 819
  • 12 Jul 2011
    How can you intelligently decide what to do with the rest of your life?  And how can you find an answer that you won’t later change on a whim? Many of us face this decision for the first time in our late teens and early 20s.  Some never face it at all and shrink from the magnitude of it, allowing chance to decide.  But this is a decision that can be made consciously — you just have to know how to approach it. If you’re a typical reader of this site, then you have a number of long-term career possibilities.  You could succeed at many different things if you put your mind to them.  The problem isn’t that you don’t have a choice — it’s that you have too many choices.  And because of the overload of choices, it’s difficult for you to commit to any of them.  Perhaps you’ve made certain commitments in the past, only to change your mind a short way down the path. The problem with outside-in Most likely you were raised to make your career choices in an outside-in manner.  Would you rather be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer?  Do you want to get a job, go into the family business, or become self-employed?  You scan the available options — even though they seem countless — and do your best to make a reasonable choice.  Many people would consider this an intelligent approach. The problem with the outside-in approach, however, is that it’s ultimately circular. Suppose you want to make the best choice you can regarding what to do with your life.  If you look outside yourself for the answer, you’ll see an overload of options — way too many for you to consider with any depth.  You can’t make the best choice by scanning all the possibilities.  You’ll die before you get close to finishing, and new career possibilities are being created all the time. So instead of best, perhaps you’re willing to settle for a good choice.  In order to know what a good choice is though, you need some kind of evaluation criteria.  How do you define the “should” in “What should you do?”  You need a context.  For example, if you’re playing a game of chess and you want to know what move to make next, you need to know the rules of the game, the current board configuration, and ideally something about your opponent.  If you don’t even know what game you’re playing, then you can’t intelligently answer the question, “What should you do?” And that’s the basic problem — you don’t really know what game you’re playing here on earth.  You don’t know the complete rules of the game.  None of us do.  Science and religion attempt to give us answers, but the most brilliant and respected people on both sides often disagree, and each side still has many unanswered questions.  You can jump to conclusions like many people do, but the wisest approach may be to simply admit, “There are some things I just don’t know.” You could take this a step further and say that if you don’t know the rules of the game, then your purpose should be to learn them.  Figure out how the world works, and then your role may become more clear.  This line of questioning leads many people into scientific and religious studies.  And that’s fine.  Humanity slowly pushes forward in these areas, but you as an individual still need to decide what piece of the puzzle to work on during your lifetime, and you’re still left swimming in a sea of choices.  But at least this line of thinking gives you a goal – to learn why you exist and what you should do with your existence. You’ve come full circle though.  You conclude that what you should do with your life is to figure out what you should do with your life.  Dead end. You’re playing a game where you don’t know all the rules, and the exact purpose of the game isn’t clear.  However, you still have to make a move.  You have no choice in that respect.  Even standing still is a valid move in the game of life.  If you look to the game for answers, the ultimate answer will be that you should make moves that will help you figure out the game.  But since you don’t know the game well enough, you still don’t know what move to make right now.  This approach simply isn’t helpful.  It just doesn’t create clarity.  It will only leave you more confused. Of course, you could just start making random moves to learn about life through trial and error.  That’s a valid short-term approach, but we can do better than that… The inside-out approach The inside-out approach means that instead of looking to the game for guidance, look within yourself.  Instead of asking, “What should I do?” or “What move should I make?” or “What career should I select?” just ask yourself, “What kind of player am I?” Regardless of what game you’re playing, you bring a unique style to it.  How would you describe that style?  What is the style in which you would most like to play the game of life? Are you aggressive, calculating, spontaneous, generous, compassionate, courageous, cautious, exploratory, etc? We’re not really talking about values here.  Values can shift around a lot.  Sometimes your career may be more important than your social life, and other times your social life may come first.  In this case we’re talking about deeply imbedded character traits.  What kind of person are you at the core of your being? How would you describe the “I” that is you?  What do you love most? I love to grow.  It’s such an imbedded part of my psyche that I can’t not grow.  Another attribute of my core self is courage.  I have an almost inborn desire to want to run towards fear instead of away from it.  And a third component is freedom.  I love having tremendous personal freedom, especially when it comes to how I use my time. The opposites of these attributes repel me.  The opposite of growth would be stagnation or complacency (not decline because even in a state of decline, you can still learn something from it).  The opposite of courage is cowardice.  And the opposite of freedom is confinement.  Someone who is my opposite would thus be drawn to lead a stagnant, cowardly, and confined existence. Once you develop a sense of what kind of player you are, you can then play the game of life by injecting your own character into it.  Whenever you don’t comprehend the rules of the game, supplement them with a part of yourself.  So if it isn’t obvious what career you should pursue, look inward instead of outward for the answer.  This will greatly narrow the field of possibilities and allow you to make a fairly intelligent choice.  The better you come to know yourself, the more intelligently you can narrow that field.  As your inward focus improves, your outer world will become more focused as well. Being vs. doing Suppose you list your core character attributes.  How do you use those to make a long-term career choice? First, let’s redefine the way you think about career.  Just for a moment, forget about job titles, responsibilities, goals, projects, and tasks.  Consider your career as an expression of who you are:  being instead of doing. If you’re an artist, your career is to create art.  But what creates a masterpiece?  Is it the brush strokes or the canvas?  Is it the education of the artist?  What creates a masterpiece is the artist.  Really it’s the artist who’s the true masterpiece, and the artwork is the physical manifestation of the artist’s inner self.  The Mona Lisa is Leonardo da Vinci. Once you come at this problem from the mindset of beingness, instead of doingness, your real career becomes this:  Your career is to express your inner self through the physical universe.  That’s your job description. Your true career is the dynamic expression of your inner being. Instead of thinking of your career in such narrow terms as job titles, think of your career as an outward expression of your inner self. If I gaze inward and see that I resonate with growth, courage, and freedom, then my career is actually to express these inner qualities out into the world.  My job is essentially just to be myself. Now as simplistic as this sounds, it’s actually very practical.  How would you use this mindset to make real-life career decisions?  You make your choices by asking, “Which is the best way to express my inner self?” For example, when faced with a career-related choice, I can ask questions like, “Which choice will yield the most growth, require the most courage, and provide the most freedom?”  These parts of my inner being shape my outward doing.  I run a personal development business (growth).  I work hard to increase web traffic (growth).  I like to tackle controversial topics (courage).  I do public speaking (courage).  I work from home and set my own hours (freedom).  I create mostly automated streams of income (freedom). I love this approach because it creates clarity.  The outside-in approach just doesn’t work for me.  Should I be a writer, a speaker, an Internet entrepreneur?  I can’t decide – all of them seem interesting.  But when I turn inward, I see that all of these can be parts of my career because they all harmonize with my inner self.  They’re all valid.  I don’t need to choose just one of these narrow bands; in fact, the type of “player” I am dictates that I should include all of these things under the same umbrella. To thine own self be true Do you hesitate to make a long-term career commitment because you don’t want to limit yourself?  I don’t want to limit myself either.  By using an inside-out approach to career, you don’t have to limit yourself.  You can express the whole you to the world, not just a small piece. Do you find your current career too limiting?  Do you enjoy your work while also wondering about all the other things you could be doing?  Why not find a way to do them too?  Stop thinking in terms of A or B, and think A and B.  What would happen if you redefined your career as the outer expression of your inner being?  What parts of your inner being are not enjoying enough outward expression?  Are you incapacitating your intellect?  Curtailing your creativity?  Squelching your sense of humor? Don’t turn your career into a prison for your soul.  If your inner self wants to spread out, let it.  To thine own self be true.
    1020 Posted by UniqueThis
  • How can you intelligently decide what to do with the rest of your life?  And how can you find an answer that you won’t later change on a whim? Many of us face this decision for the first time in our late teens and early 20s.  Some never face it at all and shrink from the magnitude of it, allowing chance to decide.  But this is a decision that can be made consciously — you just have to know how to approach it. If you’re a typical reader of this site, then you have a number of long-term career possibilities.  You could succeed at many different things if you put your mind to them.  The problem isn’t that you don’t have a choice — it’s that you have too many choices.  And because of the overload of choices, it’s difficult for you to commit to any of them.  Perhaps you’ve made certain commitments in the past, only to change your mind a short way down the path. The problem with outside-in Most likely you were raised to make your career choices in an outside-in manner.  Would you rather be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer?  Do you want to get a job, go into the family business, or become self-employed?  You scan the available options — even though they seem countless — and do your best to make a reasonable choice.  Many people would consider this an intelligent approach. The problem with the outside-in approach, however, is that it’s ultimately circular. Suppose you want to make the best choice you can regarding what to do with your life.  If you look outside yourself for the answer, you’ll see an overload of options — way too many for you to consider with any depth.  You can’t make the best choice by scanning all the possibilities.  You’ll die before you get close to finishing, and new career possibilities are being created all the time. So instead of best, perhaps you’re willing to settle for a good choice.  In order to know what a good choice is though, you need some kind of evaluation criteria.  How do you define the “should” in “What should you do?”  You need a context.  For example, if you’re playing a game of chess and you want to know what move to make next, you need to know the rules of the game, the current board configuration, and ideally something about your opponent.  If you don’t even know what game you’re playing, then you can’t intelligently answer the question, “What should you do?” And that’s the basic problem — you don’t really know what game you’re playing here on earth.  You don’t know the complete rules of the game.  None of us do.  Science and religion attempt to give us answers, but the most brilliant and respected people on both sides often disagree, and each side still has many unanswered questions.  You can jump to conclusions like many people do, but the wisest approach may be to simply admit, “There are some things I just don’t know.” You could take this a step further and say that if you don’t know the rules of the game, then your purpose should be to learn them.  Figure out how the world works, and then your role may become more clear.  This line of questioning leads many people into scientific and religious studies.  And that’s fine.  Humanity slowly pushes forward in these areas, but you as an individual still need to decide what piece of the puzzle to work on during your lifetime, and you’re still left swimming in a sea of choices.  But at least this line of thinking gives you a goal – to learn why you exist and what you should do with your existence. You’ve come full circle though.  You conclude that what you should do with your life is to figure out what you should do with your life.  Dead end. You’re playing a game where you don’t know all the rules, and the exact purpose of the game isn’t clear.  However, you still have to make a move.  You have no choice in that respect.  Even standing still is a valid move in the game of life.  If you look to the game for answers, the ultimate answer will be that you should make moves that will help you figure out the game.  But since you don’t know the game well enough, you still don’t know what move to make right now.  This approach simply isn’t helpful.  It just doesn’t create clarity.  It will only leave you more confused. Of course, you could just start making random moves to learn about life through trial and error.  That’s a valid short-term approach, but we can do better than that… The inside-out approach The inside-out approach means that instead of looking to the game for guidance, look within yourself.  Instead of asking, “What should I do?” or “What move should I make?” or “What career should I select?” just ask yourself, “What kind of player am I?” Regardless of what game you’re playing, you bring a unique style to it.  How would you describe that style?  What is the style in which you would most like to play the game of life? Are you aggressive, calculating, spontaneous, generous, compassionate, courageous, cautious, exploratory, etc? We’re not really talking about values here.  Values can shift around a lot.  Sometimes your career may be more important than your social life, and other times your social life may come first.  In this case we’re talking about deeply imbedded character traits.  What kind of person are you at the core of your being? How would you describe the “I” that is you?  What do you love most? I love to grow.  It’s such an imbedded part of my psyche that I can’t not grow.  Another attribute of my core self is courage.  I have an almost inborn desire to want to run towards fear instead of away from it.  And a third component is freedom.  I love having tremendous personal freedom, especially when it comes to how I use my time. The opposites of these attributes repel me.  The opposite of growth would be stagnation or complacency (not decline because even in a state of decline, you can still learn something from it).  The opposite of courage is cowardice.  And the opposite of freedom is confinement.  Someone who is my opposite would thus be drawn to lead a stagnant, cowardly, and confined existence. Once you develop a sense of what kind of player you are, you can then play the game of life by injecting your own character into it.  Whenever you don’t comprehend the rules of the game, supplement them with a part of yourself.  So if it isn’t obvious what career you should pursue, look inward instead of outward for the answer.  This will greatly narrow the field of possibilities and allow you to make a fairly intelligent choice.  The better you come to know yourself, the more intelligently you can narrow that field.  As your inward focus improves, your outer world will become more focused as well. Being vs. doing Suppose you list your core character attributes.  How do you use those to make a long-term career choice? First, let’s redefine the way you think about career.  Just for a moment, forget about job titles, responsibilities, goals, projects, and tasks.  Consider your career as an expression of who you are:  being instead of doing. If you’re an artist, your career is to create art.  But what creates a masterpiece?  Is it the brush strokes or the canvas?  Is it the education of the artist?  What creates a masterpiece is the artist.  Really it’s the artist who’s the true masterpiece, and the artwork is the physical manifestation of the artist’s inner self.  The Mona Lisa is Leonardo da Vinci. Once you come at this problem from the mindset of beingness, instead of doingness, your real career becomes this:  Your career is to express your inner self through the physical universe.  That’s your job description. Your true career is the dynamic expression of your inner being. Instead of thinking of your career in such narrow terms as job titles, think of your career as an outward expression of your inner self. If I gaze inward and see that I resonate with growth, courage, and freedom, then my career is actually to express these inner qualities out into the world.  My job is essentially just to be myself. Now as simplistic as this sounds, it’s actually very practical.  How would you use this mindset to make real-life career decisions?  You make your choices by asking, “Which is the best way to express my inner self?” For example, when faced with a career-related choice, I can ask questions like, “Which choice will yield the most growth, require the most courage, and provide the most freedom?”  These parts of my inner being shape my outward doing.  I run a personal development business (growth).  I work hard to increase web traffic (growth).  I like to tackle controversial topics (courage).  I do public speaking (courage).  I work from home and set my own hours (freedom).  I create mostly automated streams of income (freedom). I love this approach because it creates clarity.  The outside-in approach just doesn’t work for me.  Should I be a writer, a speaker, an Internet entrepreneur?  I can’t decide – all of them seem interesting.  But when I turn inward, I see that all of these can be parts of my career because they all harmonize with my inner self.  They’re all valid.  I don’t need to choose just one of these narrow bands; in fact, the type of “player” I am dictates that I should include all of these things under the same umbrella. To thine own self be true Do you hesitate to make a long-term career commitment because you don’t want to limit yourself?  I don’t want to limit myself either.  By using an inside-out approach to career, you don’t have to limit yourself.  You can express the whole you to the world, not just a small piece. Do you find your current career too limiting?  Do you enjoy your work while also wondering about all the other things you could be doing?  Why not find a way to do them too?  Stop thinking in terms of A or B, and think A and B.  What would happen if you redefined your career as the outer expression of your inner being?  What parts of your inner being are not enjoying enough outward expression?  Are you incapacitating your intellect?  Curtailing your creativity?  Squelching your sense of humor? Don’t turn your career into a prison for your soul.  If your inner self wants to spread out, let it.  To thine own self be true.
    Jul 12, 2011 1020
  • 12 Jul 2011
    You may have read my recent interview with multi-millionaire Marc Allen.  This is a review of his latest book, The Type-Z Guide to Success With Ease: A Lazy Person’s Manifesto for Wealth and Fulfillment. The Type Z-Guide presents a way to enjoy success with less stress, less hard work, and much greater ease.  “Type-Z” principles are juxtaposed with traditional, hard-working Type-A methods. Is it possible to achieve a high degree of success without working until you drop?  Marc claims to have become a millionaire this way, and he provides a convincing argument why slowing down and taking more time for rest and relaxing can produce better results in the long run. Marc stresses (or perhaps I should say “emphasizes,” since he doesn’t exude stress at all) that even while you’re being lazy, productive work is still being done.  Your subconscious mind is churning away even while your conscious mind is at rest.  Many people get their best ideas during times of rest.  I often get great ideas while exercising.  If you’re working constantly, you’ll be too focused on the details and will miss the really big opportunities.  Relaxation helps expand your focus, allowing you to freshly survey the entire landscape around you. To me this sounds like the difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.  If you work very hard without much rest, you may do a lot of things right.  But many of the tasks you complete may ultimately be trivial.  If you were to work fewer hours, you’ll have to drop some activities.  And what you’ll likely drop will be the least important tasks that need not be done at all.  If you work 60+ hours a week, you probably have a lot of waste that could be pruned from your schedule with minimal consequences. I completely agree with Marc here because I did a personal experiment years ago to see if I could reduce my work time while increasing my productivity.  I wrote up my results in this article:  Triple Your Personal Productivity.  That experiment really convinced me that merely working long hours does not guarantee productive results.  It was an eye-opening lesson to see that I could actually be more productive working fewer hours. The Type Z-Guide also presents a basic blueprint for sucess: Write down your ideal scene, set five years in the future. Write down your goals (extracted from ideal scene). Turn your goals into positive, personal, present-tense affirmations. Deal with doubts and fears effectively (the book provides a specific process for this). Write simple plans for your goals on paper. Take the most obvious first action right in front of you, and keep going from there. “First you build your castles in the air, then you build the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau The most important concept I got out of this book was the idea of setting aside plenty of time for what Marc calls “big picture thinking.”  It takes time to go through the focusing process above.  If we’re working around the clock, we’ll never get around to doing this big picture thinking.  But if we cut back on our hours, we’ll sacrifice those distracting, low-yield tasks and have more time for big picture thinking. For many years now, I’ve been using a process similar to the above, and I absolutely love the results.  I often set aside several days in a row just to dream, set goals, and make plans.  Before I launched this web site in October 2004, I imagined a site filled with unique personal development articles and audio recordings.  I imagined people being helped by those articles and referring their friends and co-workers.  I imagined making the content as accessible as possible (i.e. free) while still generating a healthy income from the site. At first I didn’t know exactly how I’d do all those things.  My plan had some holes in it.  But I just started with the most obvious actions right in front of me, and along the way all the resources I needed came to me:  blogging technology, podcasting, contextual advertising, social bookmarking, etc.  Bit by bit that vision has been realized.  Yes, I worked hard.  But I also took a lot of time off for big picture thinking.  Now I’m setting new goals that would have seemed out of reach a couple years ago. I’ve read a great many ebooks, and The Type Z-Guide has some unique features I haven’t seen elsewhere.  The most notable is that there are abundant audio clips interspersed with the text.  Most are just a few minutes long and offer some additional advice and stories, but there are also longer more detailed interviews in Q&A format.  Finally, the book includes a slide show with music, guiding you to relax via deep breathing. I encourage you to check out The Type Z-Guide.  It contains practical advice for increasing your productivity while actually working fewer hours and enjoying more leisure time.
    767 Posted by UniqueThis
  • You may have read my recent interview with multi-millionaire Marc Allen.  This is a review of his latest book, The Type-Z Guide to Success With Ease: A Lazy Person’s Manifesto for Wealth and Fulfillment. The Type Z-Guide presents a way to enjoy success with less stress, less hard work, and much greater ease.  “Type-Z” principles are juxtaposed with traditional, hard-working Type-A methods. Is it possible to achieve a high degree of success without working until you drop?  Marc claims to have become a millionaire this way, and he provides a convincing argument why slowing down and taking more time for rest and relaxing can produce better results in the long run. Marc stresses (or perhaps I should say “emphasizes,” since he doesn’t exude stress at all) that even while you’re being lazy, productive work is still being done.  Your subconscious mind is churning away even while your conscious mind is at rest.  Many people get their best ideas during times of rest.  I often get great ideas while exercising.  If you’re working constantly, you’ll be too focused on the details and will miss the really big opportunities.  Relaxation helps expand your focus, allowing you to freshly survey the entire landscape around you. To me this sounds like the difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.  If you work very hard without much rest, you may do a lot of things right.  But many of the tasks you complete may ultimately be trivial.  If you were to work fewer hours, you’ll have to drop some activities.  And what you’ll likely drop will be the least important tasks that need not be done at all.  If you work 60+ hours a week, you probably have a lot of waste that could be pruned from your schedule with minimal consequences. I completely agree with Marc here because I did a personal experiment years ago to see if I could reduce my work time while increasing my productivity.  I wrote up my results in this article:  Triple Your Personal Productivity.  That experiment really convinced me that merely working long hours does not guarantee productive results.  It was an eye-opening lesson to see that I could actually be more productive working fewer hours. The Type Z-Guide also presents a basic blueprint for sucess: Write down your ideal scene, set five years in the future. Write down your goals (extracted from ideal scene). Turn your goals into positive, personal, present-tense affirmations. Deal with doubts and fears effectively (the book provides a specific process for this). Write simple plans for your goals on paper. Take the most obvious first action right in front of you, and keep going from there. “First you build your castles in the air, then you build the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau The most important concept I got out of this book was the idea of setting aside plenty of time for what Marc calls “big picture thinking.”  It takes time to go through the focusing process above.  If we’re working around the clock, we’ll never get around to doing this big picture thinking.  But if we cut back on our hours, we’ll sacrifice those distracting, low-yield tasks and have more time for big picture thinking. For many years now, I’ve been using a process similar to the above, and I absolutely love the results.  I often set aside several days in a row just to dream, set goals, and make plans.  Before I launched this web site in October 2004, I imagined a site filled with unique personal development articles and audio recordings.  I imagined people being helped by those articles and referring their friends and co-workers.  I imagined making the content as accessible as possible (i.e. free) while still generating a healthy income from the site. At first I didn’t know exactly how I’d do all those things.  My plan had some holes in it.  But I just started with the most obvious actions right in front of me, and along the way all the resources I needed came to me:  blogging technology, podcasting, contextual advertising, social bookmarking, etc.  Bit by bit that vision has been realized.  Yes, I worked hard.  But I also took a lot of time off for big picture thinking.  Now I’m setting new goals that would have seemed out of reach a couple years ago. I’ve read a great many ebooks, and The Type Z-Guide has some unique features I haven’t seen elsewhere.  The most notable is that there are abundant audio clips interspersed with the text.  Most are just a few minutes long and offer some additional advice and stories, but there are also longer more detailed interviews in Q&A format.  Finally, the book includes a slide show with music, guiding you to relax via deep breathing. I encourage you to check out The Type Z-Guide.  It contains practical advice for increasing your productivity while actually working fewer hours and enjoying more leisure time.
    Jul 12, 2011 767
  • 12 Jul 2011
    StevePavlina.com was launched on Oct 1st, 2004.  By April 2005 it was averaging $4.12/day in income.  Now it brings in over $200/day $1000/day (updated as of 10/29/06).  I didn’t spend a dime on marketing or promotion.  In fact, I started this site with just $9 to register the domain name, and everything was bootstrapped from there.  Would you like to know how I did it? This article is seriously long (over 7300 words), but you’re sure to get your money’s worth (hehehe).  I’ll even share some specifics.  If you don’t have time to read it now, feel free to bookmark it or print it out for later. Do you actually want to monetize your blog? Some people have strong personal feelings with respect to making money from their blogs.  If you think commercializing your blog is evil, immoral, unethical, uncool, lame, greedy, obnoxious, or anything along those lines, then don’t commercialize it. If you have mixed feelings about monetizing your blog, then sort out those feelings first.  If you think monetizing your site is wonderful, fine.  If you think it’s evil, fine.  But make up your mind before you seriously consider starting down this path.  If you want to succeed, you must be congruent.  Generating income from your blog is challenging enough — you don’t want to be dealing with self-sabotage at the same time.  It should feel genuinely good to earn income from your blog — you should be driven by a healthy ambition to succeed.  If your blog provides genuine value, you fully deserve to earn income from it.  If, however, you find yourself full of doubts over whether this is the right path for you, you might find this article helpful:  How Selfish Are You?  It’s about balancing your needs with the needs of others. If you do decide to generate income from your blog, then don’t be shy about it.  If you’re going to put up ads, then really put up ads.  Don’t just stick a puny little ad square in a remote corner somewhere.  If you’re going to request donations, then really request donations.  Don’t put up a barely visible “Donate” link and pray for the best.  If you’re going to sell products, then really sell them.  Create or acquire the best quality products you can, and give your visitors compelling reasons to buy.  If you’re going to do this, then fully commit to it.  Don’t take a half-assed approach.  Either be full-assed or no-assed. You can reasonably expect that when you begin commercializing a free site, some people will complain, depending on how you do it.  I launched this site in October 2004, and I began putting Google Adsense ads on the site in February 2005.  There were some complaints, but I expected that — it was really no big deal.  Less than 1 in 5,000 visitors actually sent me negative feedback.  Most people who sent feedback were surprisingly supportive.  Most of the complaints died off within a few weeks, and the site began generating income almost immediately, although it was pretty low — a whopping $53 the first month.  If you’d like to see some month-by-month specifics, I posted my 2005 Adsense revenue figures earlier this year.  Adsense is still my single best source of revenue for this site, although it’s certainly not my only source.  More on that later… Can you make a decent income online? Yes, absolutely.  At the very least, a high five-figure annual income is certainly an attainable goal for an individual working full-time from home.  I’m making a healthy income from StevePavlina.com, and the site is only 19 months old… barely a toddler.  If you have a day job, it will take longer to generate a livable income, but it can still be done part-time if you’re willing to devote a lot of your spare time to it.  I’ve always done it full-time. Can most people do it? No, they can’t.  I hope it doesn’t shock you to see a personal development web site use the dreaded C-word.  But I happen to agree with those who say that 99% of people who try to generate serious income from their blogs will fail.  The tagline for this site is “Personal Development for Smart People.”  And unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook), smart people are a minority on this planet.  So while most people can’t make a living this way, I would say that most smart people can.  How do you know whether or not you qualify as smart?  Here’s a good rule of thumb:  If you have to ask the question, you aren’t. If that last paragraph doesn’t flood my inbox with flames, I don’t know what will.  OK, actually I do. This kind of 99-1 ratio isn’t unique to blogging though.  You’ll see it in any field with relatively low barriers to entry.  What percentage of wannabe actors, musicians, or athletes ever make enough money from their passions to support themselves?  It doesn’t take much effort to start a blog these days — almost anyone can do it.  Talent counts for something, and the talent that matters in blogging is intelligence.  But that just gets you in the door.  You need to specifically apply your intelligence to one particular talent.  And the best words I can think of to describe that particular talent are:  web savvy. If you are very web savvy, or if you can learn to become very web savvy, then you have an excellent shot of making enough money from your blog to cover all your living expenses… and then some.  But if becoming truly web savvy is more than your gray matter can handle, then I’ll offer this advice:  Don’t quit your day job. Web savvy What do I mean by web savvy?  You don’t need to be a programmer, but you need a decent functional understanding of a variety of web technologies.  What technologies are “key” will depend on the nature of your blog and your means of monetization.  But generally speaking I’d list these elements as significant: blog publishing software HTML/CSS blog comments (and comment spam) RSS/syndication feed aggregators pings trackbacks full vs. partial feeds blog carnivals (for kick-starting your blog’s traffic) search engines search engine optimization (SEO) page rank social bookmarking tagging contextual advertising affiliate programs traffic statistics email Optional:  podcasting, instant messaging, PHP or other web scripting languages. I’m sure I missed a few due to familiarity blindness.  If scanning such a list makes your head spin, I wouldn’t recommend trying to make a full-time living from blogging just yet.  Certainly you can still blog, but you’ll be at a serious disadvantage compared to someone who’s more web savvy, so don’t expect to achieve stellar results until you expand your knowledge base. If you want to sell downloadable products such as ebooks, then you can add e-commerce, SSL, digital delivery, fraud prevention, and online databases to the list.  Again, you don’t need to be a programmer; you just need a basic understanding of these technologies.  Even if you hire someone else to handle the low-level implementation, it’s important to know what you’re getting into.  You need to be able to trust your strategic decisions, and you won’t be able to do that if you’re a General who doesn’t know what a gun is. A lack of understanding is a major cause of failure in the realm of online income generation.  For example, if you’re clueless about search engine optimization (SEO), you’ll probably cripple your search engine rankings compared to someone who understands SEO well.  But you can’t consider each technology in isolation.  You need to understand the connections and trade-offs between them.  Monetizing a blog is a balancing act.  You may need to balance the needs of yourself, your visitors, search engines, those who link to you, social bookmarking sites, advertisers, affiliate programs, and others.  Seemingly minor decisions like what to title a web page are significant.  In coming up with the title of this article, I have to take all of these potential viewers into consideration.  I want a title that is attractive to human visitors, drives reasonable search engine traffic, yields relevant contextual ads, fits the theme of the site, and encourages linking and social bookmarking.  And most importantly I want each article to provide genuine value to my visitors.  I do my best to create titles for my articles that balance these various needs.  Often that means abandoning cutesy or clever titles in favor of direct and comprehensible ones.  It’s little skills like these that help drive sustainable traffic growth month after month.  Missing out on just this one skill is enough to cripple your traffic.  And there are dozens of these types of skills that require web savvy to understand, respect, and apply. This sort of knowledge is what separates the 1% from the 99%.  Both groups may work just as hard, but the 1% is getting much better results for their efforts.  It normally doesn’t take me more than 60 seconds to title an article, but a lot of experience goes into those 60 seconds.  You really just have to learn these ideas once; after that you can apply them routinely. Whenever you come across a significant web technology you don’t understand, look it up on Google or Wikipedia, and dive into it long enough to acquire a basic understanding of it.  To make money from blogging it’s important to be something of a jack of all trades.  Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.”  That may be true, but you don’t need to master any of these technologies — you just have to be good enough to use them.  It’s the difference between being able to drive a car vs. becoming an auto mechanic.  Strive to achieve functional knowledge, and then move on to something else.  Even though I’m an experienced programmer, I don’t know how many web technologies actually work.  I don’t really care.  I can still use them to generate results.  In the time it would take me to fully understand one new technology, I can achieve sufficient functional knowledge to apply several of them. Thriving on change Your greatest risk isn’t that you’ll make mistakes that will cost you.  Your greatest risk is that you’ll miss opportunities.  You need an entrepreneurial mindset, not an employee mindset.  Don’t be too concerned with the risk of loss — be more concerned with the risk of missed gains.  It’s what you don’t know and what you don’t do that will hurt you the worst.  Blogging is cheap.  Your expenses and financial risk should be minimal.  Your real concern should be missing opportunities that would have made you money very easily.  You need to develop antennae that can listen out for new opportunities.  I highly recommend subscribing to Darren Rowse’s Problogger blog — Darren is great at uncovering new income-generating opportunities for bloggers. The blogosphere changes rapidly, and change creates opportunity.  It takes some brains to decipher these opportunities and to take advantage of them before they disappear.  If you hesitate to capitalize on something new and exciting, you may simply miss out.  Many opportunities are temporary.  And every day you don’t implement them, you’re losing money you could have earned.  And you’re also missing opportunities to build traffic, grow your audience, and benefit more people. I used to get annoyed by the rapid rate of change of web technologies.  It’s even more rapid than what I saw when I worked in the computer gaming industry.  And the rate of change is accelerating.  Almost every week now I learn about some fascinating new web service or idea that could potentially lead to big changes down the road.  Making sense of them is a full-time job in itself.  But I learned to love this insane pace.  If I’m confused then everyone else is probably confused too.  And people who only do this part-time will be very confused.  If they aren’t confused, then they aren’t keeping up.  So if I can be just a little bit faster and understand these technologies just a little bit sooner, then I can capitalize on some serious opportunities before the barriers to entry become too high.  Even though confusion is uncomfortable, it’s really a good thing for a web entrepreneur.  This is what creates the space for a college student to earn $1,000,000 online in just a few months with a clever idea.  Remember this isn’t a zero-sum game.  Don’t let someone else’s success make you feel diminished or jealous.  Let it inspire you instead. What’s your overall income-generation strategy? I don’t want to insult anyone, but most people are utterly clueless when it comes to generating income from their blogs.  They slap things together haphazardly with no rhyme or reason and hope to generate lots of money.  While I’m a strong advocate of the ready-fire-aim approach, that strategy does require that you eventually aim.  Ready-fire-fire-fire-fire will just create a mess. Take a moment to articulate a basic income-generating strategy for your site.  If you aren’t good at strategy, then just come up with a general philosophy for how you’re going to generate income.  You don’t need a full business plan, just a description of how you plan to get from $0 per month to whatever your income goal is.  An initial target goal I used when I first started this site was $3000 per month.  It’s a somewhat arbitrary figure, but I knew if I could reach $3000 per month, I could certainly push it higher, and $3000 is enough income that it’s going to make a meaningful difference in my finances.  I reached that level 15 months after launching the site (in December 2005).  And since then it’s continued to increase nicely.  Blogging income is actually quite easy to maintain.  It’s a lot more secure than a regular job.  No one can fire me, and if one source of income dries up, I can always add new ones.  We’ll address multiple streams of income soon… Are you going to generate income from advertising, affiliate commissions, product sales, donations, or something else?  Maybe you want a combination of these things.  However you decide to generate income, put your basic strategy down in writing.  I took 15 minutes to create a half-page summary of my monetization strategy.  I only update it about once a year and review it once a month.  This isn’t difficult, but it helps me stay focused on where I’m headed.  It also allows me to say no to opportunities that are inconsistent with my plan. Refer to your monetization strategy (or philosophy) when you need to make design decisions for your web site.  Although you may have multiple streams of income, decide which type of income will be your primary source, and design your site around that.  Do you need to funnel people towards an order form, or will you place ads all over the site?  Different monetization strategies suggest different design approaches.  Think about what specific action you want your visitors to eventually take that will generate income for you, and design your site accordingly. When devising your income strategy, feel free to cheat.  Don’t re-invent the wheel.  Copy someone else’s strategy that you’re convinced would work for you too.  Do NOT copy anyone’s content or site layout (that’s copyright infringement), but take note of how they’re making money.  I decided to monetize this site with advertising and affiliate income after researching how various successful bloggers generated income.  Later I added donations as well.  This is an effective combo. Traffic, traffic, traffic Assuming you feel qualified to take on the challenge of generating income from blogging (and I haven’t scared you away yet), the three most important things you need to monetize your blog are traffic, traffic, and traffic. Just to throw out some figures, last month (April 2006), this site received over 1.1 million visitors and over 2.4 million page views.  That’s almost triple what it was just six months ago. Why is traffic so important?  Because for most methods of online income generation, your income is a function of traffic.  If you double your traffic, you’ll probably double your income (assuming your visitor demographics remain fairly consistent).  You can screw almost everything else up, but if you can generate serious traffic, it’s really hard to fail.  With sufficient traffic the realistic worst case is that you’ll eventually be able to monetize your web site via trial and error (as long as you keep those visitors coming). When I first launched this blog, I knew that traffic building was going to be my biggest challenge.  All of my plans hinged on my ability to build traffic.  If I couldn’t build traffic, it was going to be very difficult to succeed.  So I didn’t even try to monetize my site for the first several months.  I just focused on traffic building.  Even after 19 months, traffic building is still the most important part of my monetization plan.  For my current traffic levels, I know I’m undermonetizing my site, but that’s OK.  Right now it’s more important to me to keep growing the site, and I’m optimizing the income generation as I go along. Traffic is the primary fuel of online income generation.  More visitors means more ad clicks, more product sales, more affiliate sales, more donations, more consulting leads, and more of whatever else that generates income for you.  And it also means you’re helping more and more people. With respect to traffic, you should know that in many respects, the rich do get richer.  High traffic leads to even more traffic-building opportunities that just aren’t accessible for low-traffic sites.  On average at least 20 bloggers add new links to my site every day, my articles can easily surge to the top of social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, and I’m getting more frequent requests for radio interviews.  Earlier this year I was featured in USA Today and in Self Magazine, which collectively have millions of readers.  Journalists are finding me by doing Google searches on topics I’ve written about.  These opportunities were not available to me when I was first starting out.  Popular sites have a serious advantage.  The more traffic you have, the more you can attract. If you’re intelligent and web savvy, you should also be able to eventually build a high-traffic web site.  And you’ll be able to leverage that traffic to build even more traffic. How to build traffic Now if traffic is so crucial, how do you build it up to significant levels if you’re starting from rock bottom? I’ve already written a lengthy article on this topic, so I’ll refer you there:  How to Build a High Traffic Web Site (or Blog).  If you don’t have time to read it now, feel free to bookmark it or print it out for later.  That article covers my general philosophy of traffic-building, which centers on creating content that provides genuine value to your visitors.  No games or gimmicks. There is one other important traffic-building tip I’ll provide here though. Blog Carnivals.  Take full advantage of blog carnivals when you’re just starting out (click the previous link and read the FAQ there to learn what carnivals are if you don’t already know).  Periodically submit your best blog posts to the appropriate carnivals for your niche.  Carnivals are easy ways to get links and traffic, and best of all, they’re free.  Submitting only takes minutes if you use a multi-carnvival submission form.  Do NOT spam the carnivals with irrelevant material — only submit to the carnivals that are a match for your content. In my early traffic-building days, I’d do carnivals submissions once a week, and it helped a great deal in going from nothing to about 50,000 visitors per month.  You still have to produce great content, but carnivals give you a free shot at marketing your unknown blog.  Free marketing is precisely the kind of opportunity you don’t want to miss.  Carnivals are like an open-mic night at a comedy club — they give amateurs a chance to show off their stuff.  I still submit to certain carnivals every once in a while, but now my traffic is so high that relatively speaking, they don’t make much difference anymore.  Just to increase my traffic by 1% in a month, I need 11,000 new visitors, and even the best carnivals don’t push that much traffic.  But you can pick up dozens or even hundreds of new subscribers from each round of carnival submissions, so it’s a great place to start.  Plus it’s very easy. If your traffic isn’t growing month after month, does it mean you’re doing something wrong?  Most likely you aren’t doing enough things right.  Again, making mistakes is not the issue.  Missing opportunities is. Will putting ads on your site hurt your traffic? Here’s a common fear I hear from people who are considering monetizing their web sites: Putting ads on my site will cripple my traffic.  The ads will drive people away, and they’ll never come back. Well, in my experience this is absolutely, positively, and otherwise completely and totally… FALSE.  It’s just not true.  Guess what happened to my traffic when I put ads on my site.  Nothing.  Guess what happened to my traffic when I put up more ads and donation links.  Nothing.  I could detect no net effect on my traffic whatsoever.  Traffic continued increasing at the same rate it did before there were ads on my site.  In fact, it might have even helped me a little, since some bloggers actually linked to my site just to point out that they didn’t like my ad layout.  I’ll leave it up to you to form your own theories about this.  It’s probably because there’s so much advertising online already that even though some people will complain when a free site puts up ads, if they value the content, they’ll still come back, regardless of what they say publicly. Most mature people understand it’s reasonable for a blogger to earn income from his/her work.  I think I’m lucky in that my audience tends to be very mature — immature people generally aren’t interested in personal development.  To create an article like this takes serious effort, not to mention the hard-earned experience that’s required to write it.  This article alone took me over 15 hours of writing and editing.  I think it’s perfectly reasonable to earn an income from such work.  If you get no value from it, you don’t pay anything.  What could be more fair than that?  The more income this blog generates, the more I can put into it.  For example, I used some of the income to buy podcasting equipment and added a podcast to the site.  I’ve recorded 13 episodes so far.  The podcasts are all ad-free.  I’m also planning to add some additional services to this site in the years ahead.  More income = better service. At the time of this writing, my site is very ad-heavy.  Some people point this out to me as if I’m not aware of it:  “You know, Steve.  Your web site seems to contain an awful lot of ads.”  Of course I’m aware of it.  I’m the one who put the ads there.  There’s a reason I have this configuration of ads.  They’re effective!  People keep clicking on them.  If they weren’t effective, I’d remove them right away and try something else. I do avoid putting up ads that I personally find annoying when I see them on other sites, including pop-ups and interstitials (stuff that flies across your screen).  Even though they’d make me more money, in my opinion they degrade the visitor experience too much. I also provide two ad-free outlets, so if you really don’t like ads, you can actually read my content without ads.  First, I provide a full-text RSS feed, and at least for now it’s ad-free.  I do, however, include a donation request in the bottom of my feeds. If you want to see some actual traffic data, take a look at the 2005 traffic growth chart.  I first put ads on the site in February 2005, and although the chart doesn’t cover pre-February traffic growth, the growth rate was very similar before then.  For an independent source, you can also look at my traffic chart on Alexa.  You can select different Range options to go further back in time. Multiple streams of income You don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket.  Think multiple streams of income.  On this site I actually have six different streams of income.  Can you count them all?  Here’s a list: Google Adsense ads (pay per click and pay per impression advertising) Donations (via PayPal or snail mail — yes, some people do mail a check) Text Link Ads (sold for a fixed amount per month) Chitika eMiniMalls ads (pay per click) Affiliate programs like Amazon and LinkShare (commission on products sold, mostly books) Advertising sold to individual advertisers (three-month campaigns or longer) Note:  If you’re reading this article a while after its original publication date, then this list is likely to change.  I frequently experiment with different streams. Adsense is my biggest single source of income, but some of the others do pretty well too.  Every stream generates more than $100/month. My second biggest income stream is actually donations.  My average donation is about $10, and I’ve received a number of $100 donations too.  It only took me about an hour to set this up via PayPal.  So even if your content is free like mine, give your visitors a means to voluntarily contribute if they wish.  It’s win-win.  I’m very grateful for the visitor support.  It’s a nice form of feedback too, since I notice that certain articles produced a surge in donations — this tells me I’m hitting the mark and giving people genuine value. These aren’t my only streams of income though.  I’ve been earning income online since 1995.  With my computer games business, I have direct sales, royalty income, some advertising income, affiliate income, and donations (from the free articles).  And if you throw in my wife’s streams of income, it gets really ridiculous:  advertising, direct book sales, book sales through distributors, web consulting, affiliate income, more Adsense income, and probably a few sources I forgot.  Suffice it to say we receive a lot of paychecks.  Some of them are small, but they add up.  It’s also extremely low risk — if one source of income dries up, we just expand existing sources or create new ones.  I encourage you to think of your blog as a potential outlet for multiple streams of income too. Automated income With the exception of #6, all of these income sources are fully automated.  I don’t have to do anything to maintain them except deposit checks, and in most cases I don’t even have to do that because the money is automatically deposited to my bank account. I love automated income.  With this blog I currently have no sales, no employees, no products, no inventory, no credit card processing, no fraud, and no customers.  And yet I’m still able to generate a reasonable (and growing) income. Why get a regular job and trade your time for money when you can let technology do all that work for you?  Imagine how it would feel to wake up each morning, go to your computer, and check how much money you made while you were sleeping.  It’s a really nice situation to be in. Blogging software and hardware I use WordPress for this blog, and I highly recommend it.  Wordpress has lots of features and a solid interface.  And you can’t beat its price — free. The rest of this site is custom-coded HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL.  I’m a programmer, so I coded it all myself.  I could have just as easily used an existing template, but I wanted a simple straightforward design for this site, and I wanted the look of the blog to match the rest of the site.  Plus I use PHP and MySQL to do some creative things outside the blog, like the Million Dollar Experiment. I don’t recommend using a hosted service like Blogger if you want to seriously monetize your blog.  You don’t get enough control.  If you don’t have your own URL, you’re tying yourself to a service you don’t own and building up someone else’s asset.  You want to build page rank and links for your own URL, not someone else’s.  Plus you want sufficient control over the layout and design of your site, so you can jump on any opportunities that require low-level changes.  If you use a hosted blog, you’re at the mercy of the hosting service, and that puts the future of any income streams you create with them at risk.  It’s a bit more work up front to self-host, but it’s less risky in the long run. Web hosting is cheap, and there are plenty of good hosts to choose from.  I recommend Pair.com for a starter hosting account.  They aren’t the cheapest, but they’re very reliable and have decent support.  I know many online businesses that host with them, and my wife refers most of her clients there. As your traffic grows you may need to upgrade to a dedicated server or a virtual private server (VPS).  This web site is hosted by ServInt.  I’ve hosted this site with them since day one, and they’ve been a truly awesome host.  What I like most about them is that they have a smooth upgrade path as my traffic keeps growing.  I’ve gone through several upgrades with them already, and all have been seamless.  The nice thing about having your own server is that you can put as many sites on it as the server can handle.  I have several sites running on my server, and it doesn’t cost me any additional hosting fees to add another site. Comments or no comments When I began this blog, I started out with comments enabled.  As traffic grew, so did the level of commenting.  Some days there were more than 100 comments.  I noticed I was spending more and more time managing comments, and I began to question whether it was worth the effort.  It became clear that with continued traffic growth, I was going to have to change my approach or die in comment hell.  The personal development topics I write about can easily generate lots of questions and discussion.  Just imagine how many follow-up questions an article like this could generate.  With tens of thousands of readers, it would be insane.  Also, nuking comment spam was chewing up more and more of my time as well. But after looking through my stats, I soon realized that only a tiny fraction of visitors ever look at comments at all, and an even smaller fraction ever post a comment (well below 1% of total visitors).  That made my decision a lot easier, and in October 2005, I turned blog comments off.  In retrospect that was one of my best decisions.  I wish I had done it sooner. If you’d like to read the full details of how I came to this decision, I’ve written about it previously:  Blog Comments and More on Blog Comments. Do you need comments to build traffic?  Obviously not.  Just like when I put up ads, I saw no decline in traffic when I turned off comments.  In fact, I think it actually helped me.  Although I turned off comments, I kept trackbacks enabled, so I started getting more trackbacks.  If people wanted to publicly comment on something I’d written, they had to do so on their own blogs and post a link.  So turning off comments didn’t kill the discussion — it just took it off site.  The volume of trackbacks is far more reasonable, and I can easily keep up with it.  I even pop onto other people’s sites and post comments now and then, but I don’t feel obligated to participate because the discussion isn’t on my own site. I realize people have very strong feelings about blog comments and community building.  Many people hold the opinion that a blog without comments just isn’t a blog.  Personally I think that’s utter nonsense — the data just doesn’t support it.  The vast majority of blog readers neither read nor post comments.  Only a very tiny and very vocal group even care about comments.  Some bloggers say that having comments helps build traffic, but I saw no evidence of that.  In fact, I think it’s just the opposite.  Managing comments detracts from writing new posts, and it’s far better to get a trackback and a link from someone else’s blog vs. a comment on your own blog.  As long-term readers of my blog know, when faced with ambiguity, my preference is to try both alternatives and compare real results with real results.  After doing that my conclusion is this:  No comment.  Now if you want to support comments for non-traffic-building reasons like socializing or making new contacts, I say go for it.  Just don’t assume that comments are necessary or even helpful in building traffic unless you directly test this assumption yourself. Build a complete web site, not just a blog Don’t limit your web site to just a blog.  Feel free to build it out.  Although most of my traffic goes straight to this blog, there’s a whole site built around it.  For example, the home page of this site presents an overview of all the sections of the site, including the blog, article section, audio content, etc.  A lot of people still don’t know what a blog is, so if your whole site is your blog, those people may be a little confused. Testing and optimization In the beginning you won’t know which potential streams of income will work best for you.  So try everything that’s reasonable for you.  If you learn about a new potential income stream, test it for a month or two, and measure the results for yourself.  Feel free to cut streams that just aren’t working for you, and put more effort into optimizing those streams that show real promise. A few months ago, I signed up for an account with Text Link Ads.  It took about 20 minutes.  They sell small text ads on my site, split the revenue with me 50-50, and deposit my earnings directly into my PayPal account.  This month I’ll make around $600 from them, possibly more if they sell some new ads during the month.  And it’s totally passive.  If I never tried this, I’d miss out on this easy extra income. For many months I’ve been tweaking the Adsense ads on this site.  I tried different colors, sizes, layouts, etc.  I continue to experiment now and then, but I have a hard time beating the current layout.  It works very well for me.  Adsense doesn’t allow publishers to reveal specific CPM and CTR data, but mine are definitely above par.  They started out in the gutter though.  You can easily double or triple your Adsense revenue by converting a poor layout into a better one.  This is the main reason why during my first year of income, my traffic grew at 20% per month, but my income grew at 50% per month.  Frequent testing and optimization had a major positive impact.  Many of my tests failed, and some even made my income go down, but I’m glad I did all that testing.  If I didn’t then my Adsense income would only be a fraction of what it is now. It’s cheap to experiment.  Every new advertising or affiliate service I’ve tried so far has been free to sign up.  Often I can add a new income stream in less than an hour and then wait a month to see how it does.  If it flops then at least I learned something.  If it does well, wonderful.  As a blogger who wants to generate income, you should always be experimenting with new income streams.  If you haven’t tried anything new in six months, you’re almost certainly missing some golden opportunities.  Every blog is different, so you need to test things for yourself to see what works for you.  Failure is impossible here — you either succeed, or you learn something. Pick your niche, but make sure it isn’t too small Pick a niche for your blog where you have some significant expertise, but make sure it’s a big enough niche that you can build significant traffic.  My wife runs a popular vegan web site.  She does pretty well within her niche, but it’s just not a very big niche.  On the other hand, my topic of personal development has much broader appeal.  Potentially anyone can be interested in improving themselves, and I have the flexibility to write about topics like productivity, self-discipline, relationships, spirituality, health, and more.  It’s all relevant to personal development. Pick a niche that you’re passionate about.  I’ve written 400+ articles so far, and I still feel like I’m just getting started.  I’m not feeling burnt out at all.  I chose to build a personal development site because I’m very knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate about this subject.  I couldn’t imagine a better topic for me to write about. Don’t pick a niche just because you think it will make you money.  I see many bloggers try to do that, and it’s almost invariably a recipe for failure.  Think about what you love most, and then find a way to make your topic appealing to a massive global audience.  Consider what will provide genuine value to your visitors.  It’s all about what you can give. A broad enough topic creates more potential advertising partners.  If I keep writing on the same subtopic over and over, I may exhaust the supply of advertisers and hit an income ceiling.  But by writing on many different topics under the same umbrella, I widen the field of potential advertisers.  And I expand the appeal of my site at the same time. Make it clear to your visitors what your blog/site is about.  Often I visit a blog with a clever title and tagline that reveals nothing about the site’s contents.  In that case I generally assume it’s just a personal journal and move on.  I love to be clever too, but I’ve found that clarity yields better results than cleverness. Posting frequency and length Bloggers have different opinions about the right posting length and frequency.  Some bloggers say it’s best to write short (250-750 word) entries and post 20x per week or more.  I’ve seen that strategy work for some, but I decided to do pretty much the opposite.  I usually aim for about 3-5 posts per week, but my posts are much longer (typically 1000-2000 words, sometimes longer than 5000 words, including the monster you’re reading right now).  That’s because rather than throwing out lots of short tips, I prefer to write more exhaustive, in-depth articles.  I find that deeper articles are better at generating links and referrals and building traffic.  It’s true that fewer people will take the time to read them, but those that do will enjoy some serious take-away value.  I don’t believe in creating disposable content just to increase page views and ad impressions.  If I’m not truly helping my visitors, I’m wasting their time. Expenses Blogging is dirt cheap. I don’t spend money on advertising or promotion, so my marketing expenses are nil.  Essentially my content is my marketing.  If you like this article, you’ll probably find many more gems in the archives. My only real expenses for this site are the hosting (I currently pay $149/month for the web server and bandwidth) and the domain name renewal ($9/year).  Nearly all of the income this site generates is profit.  This trickles down to my personal income, so of course it’s subject to income tax.  But the actual business expenses are minimal. The reason I pay so much for hosting is simply due to my traffic.  If my traffic were much lower, I could run this site on a cheap shared hosting account.  A database-driven blog can be a real resource hog at high traffic levels.  The same goes for online forums.  As traffic continues to increase, my hosting bill will go up too, but it will still be a tiny fraction of total income. Perks Depending on the nature of your blog, you may be able to enjoy some nice perks as your traffic grows.  Almost every week I get free personal development books in the mail (for potential review on this site).  Sometimes the author will send it directly; other times the publisher will ship me a batch of books.  I also receive CDs, DVDs, and other personal development products.  It’s hard to keep up sometimes (I have a queue of about two dozen books right now), but I am a voracious consumer of such products, so I do plow through them as fast as I can.  When something strikes me as worthy of mention, I do indeed write up a review to share it with my visitors.  I have very high standards though, so I review less than 10% of what I receive.  I’ve read over 700 books in this field and listened to dozens of audio programs, so I’m pretty good at filtering out the fluff.  As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a great deal of self-help fluff out there. My criteria for reviewing a product on this site is that it has to be original, compelling, and profound.  If it doesn’t meet these criteria, I don’t review it, even if there’s a generous affiliate program.  I’m not going to risk abusing my relationship with my visitors just to make a quick buck.  Making money is not my main motivation for running this site.  My main motivation is to grow and to help others grow, so that always comes first. Your blog can also gain you access to certain events.  A high-traffic blog becomes a potential media outlet, so you can actually think of yourself as a member of the press, which indeed you are.  In a few days, my wife and I will be attending a three-day seminar via a free press pass.  The regular price for these tickets is $500 per person.  I’ll be posting a full review of the seminar next week.  I’ve been to this particular seminar in 2004, so I already have high expectations for it.  Dr. Wayne Dyer will be the keynote speaker. I’m also using the popularity of this blog to set up interviews with people I’ve always wanted to learn more about.  This is beautifully win-win because it creates value for me, my audience, and the person being interviewed.  Recently I posted an exclusive interview with multi-millionaire Marc Allen as well as a review of his latest book, and I’m lining up other interviews as well.  It isn’t hard to convince someone to do an interview in exchange for so much free exposure. Motivation I don’t think you’ll get very far if money is your #1 motivation for blogging.  You have to be driven by something much deeper.  Money is just frosting.  It’s the cake underneath that matters.  My cake is that I absolutely love personal development – not the phony “fast and easy” junk you see on infomercials, but real growth that makes us better human beings.  That’s my passion.  Pouring money on top of it just adds more fuel to the fire, but the fire is still there with or without the money. What’s your passion?  What would you blog about if you were already set for life? Blogging lifestyle Perhaps the best part of generating income from blogging is the freedom it brings.  I work from home and set my own hours.  I write whenever I’m inspired to write (which for me is quite often).  Plus I get to spend my time doing what I love most — working on personal growth and helping others do the same.  There’s nothing I’d rather do than this. Perhaps it’s true that 99 out of 100 people can’t make a decent living from blogging yet.  But maybe you’re among the 1 in 100 who can. On the other hand, I can offer you a good alternative to recommend if you don’t have the technical skills to build a high-traffic, income-generating blog. Check out Build Your Own Successful Online Business for details.
    1412 Posted by UniqueThis
  • StevePavlina.com was launched on Oct 1st, 2004.  By April 2005 it was averaging $4.12/day in income.  Now it brings in over $200/day $1000/day (updated as of 10/29/06).  I didn’t spend a dime on marketing or promotion.  In fact, I started this site with just $9 to register the domain name, and everything was bootstrapped from there.  Would you like to know how I did it? This article is seriously long (over 7300 words), but you’re sure to get your money’s worth (hehehe).  I’ll even share some specifics.  If you don’t have time to read it now, feel free to bookmark it or print it out for later. Do you actually want to monetize your blog? Some people have strong personal feelings with respect to making money from their blogs.  If you think commercializing your blog is evil, immoral, unethical, uncool, lame, greedy, obnoxious, or anything along those lines, then don’t commercialize it. If you have mixed feelings about monetizing your blog, then sort out those feelings first.  If you think monetizing your site is wonderful, fine.  If you think it’s evil, fine.  But make up your mind before you seriously consider starting down this path.  If you want to succeed, you must be congruent.  Generating income from your blog is challenging enough — you don’t want to be dealing with self-sabotage at the same time.  It should feel genuinely good to earn income from your blog — you should be driven by a healthy ambition to succeed.  If your blog provides genuine value, you fully deserve to earn income from it.  If, however, you find yourself full of doubts over whether this is the right path for you, you might find this article helpful:  How Selfish Are You?  It’s about balancing your needs with the needs of others. If you do decide to generate income from your blog, then don’t be shy about it.  If you’re going to put up ads, then really put up ads.  Don’t just stick a puny little ad square in a remote corner somewhere.  If you’re going to request donations, then really request donations.  Don’t put up a barely visible “Donate” link and pray for the best.  If you’re going to sell products, then really sell them.  Create or acquire the best quality products you can, and give your visitors compelling reasons to buy.  If you’re going to do this, then fully commit to it.  Don’t take a half-assed approach.  Either be full-assed or no-assed. You can reasonably expect that when you begin commercializing a free site, some people will complain, depending on how you do it.  I launched this site in October 2004, and I began putting Google Adsense ads on the site in February 2005.  There were some complaints, but I expected that — it was really no big deal.  Less than 1 in 5,000 visitors actually sent me negative feedback.  Most people who sent feedback were surprisingly supportive.  Most of the complaints died off within a few weeks, and the site began generating income almost immediately, although it was pretty low — a whopping $53 the first month.  If you’d like to see some month-by-month specifics, I posted my 2005 Adsense revenue figures earlier this year.  Adsense is still my single best source of revenue for this site, although it’s certainly not my only source.  More on that later… Can you make a decent income online? Yes, absolutely.  At the very least, a high five-figure annual income is certainly an attainable goal for an individual working full-time from home.  I’m making a healthy income from StevePavlina.com, and the site is only 19 months old… barely a toddler.  If you have a day job, it will take longer to generate a livable income, but it can still be done part-time if you’re willing to devote a lot of your spare time to it.  I’ve always done it full-time. Can most people do it? No, they can’t.  I hope it doesn’t shock you to see a personal development web site use the dreaded C-word.  But I happen to agree with those who say that 99% of people who try to generate serious income from their blogs will fail.  The tagline for this site is “Personal Development for Smart People.”  And unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook), smart people are a minority on this planet.  So while most people can’t make a living this way, I would say that most smart people can.  How do you know whether or not you qualify as smart?  Here’s a good rule of thumb:  If you have to ask the question, you aren’t. If that last paragraph doesn’t flood my inbox with flames, I don’t know what will.  OK, actually I do. This kind of 99-1 ratio isn’t unique to blogging though.  You’ll see it in any field with relatively low barriers to entry.  What percentage of wannabe actors, musicians, or athletes ever make enough money from their passions to support themselves?  It doesn’t take much effort to start a blog these days — almost anyone can do it.  Talent counts for something, and the talent that matters in blogging is intelligence.  But that just gets you in the door.  You need to specifically apply your intelligence to one particular talent.  And the best words I can think of to describe that particular talent are:  web savvy. If you are very web savvy, or if you can learn to become very web savvy, then you have an excellent shot of making enough money from your blog to cover all your living expenses… and then some.  But if becoming truly web savvy is more than your gray matter can handle, then I’ll offer this advice:  Don’t quit your day job. Web savvy What do I mean by web savvy?  You don’t need to be a programmer, but you need a decent functional understanding of a variety of web technologies.  What technologies are “key” will depend on the nature of your blog and your means of monetization.  But generally speaking I’d list these elements as significant: blog publishing software HTML/CSS blog comments (and comment spam) RSS/syndication feed aggregators pings trackbacks full vs. partial feeds blog carnivals (for kick-starting your blog’s traffic) search engines search engine optimization (SEO) page rank social bookmarking tagging contextual advertising affiliate programs traffic statistics email Optional:  podcasting, instant messaging, PHP or other web scripting languages. I’m sure I missed a few due to familiarity blindness.  If scanning such a list makes your head spin, I wouldn’t recommend trying to make a full-time living from blogging just yet.  Certainly you can still blog, but you’ll be at a serious disadvantage compared to someone who’s more web savvy, so don’t expect to achieve stellar results until you expand your knowledge base. If you want to sell downloadable products such as ebooks, then you can add e-commerce, SSL, digital delivery, fraud prevention, and online databases to the list.  Again, you don’t need to be a programmer; you just need a basic understanding of these technologies.  Even if you hire someone else to handle the low-level implementation, it’s important to know what you’re getting into.  You need to be able to trust your strategic decisions, and you won’t be able to do that if you’re a General who doesn’t know what a gun is. A lack of understanding is a major cause of failure in the realm of online income generation.  For example, if you’re clueless about search engine optimization (SEO), you’ll probably cripple your search engine rankings compared to someone who understands SEO well.  But you can’t consider each technology in isolation.  You need to understand the connections and trade-offs between them.  Monetizing a blog is a balancing act.  You may need to balance the needs of yourself, your visitors, search engines, those who link to you, social bookmarking sites, advertisers, affiliate programs, and others.  Seemingly minor decisions like what to title a web page are significant.  In coming up with the title of this article, I have to take all of these potential viewers into consideration.  I want a title that is attractive to human visitors, drives reasonable search engine traffic, yields relevant contextual ads, fits the theme of the site, and encourages linking and social bookmarking.  And most importantly I want each article to provide genuine value to my visitors.  I do my best to create titles for my articles that balance these various needs.  Often that means abandoning cutesy or clever titles in favor of direct and comprehensible ones.  It’s little skills like these that help drive sustainable traffic growth month after month.  Missing out on just this one skill is enough to cripple your traffic.  And there are dozens of these types of skills that require web savvy to understand, respect, and apply. This sort of knowledge is what separates the 1% from the 99%.  Both groups may work just as hard, but the 1% is getting much better results for their efforts.  It normally doesn’t take me more than 60 seconds to title an article, but a lot of experience goes into those 60 seconds.  You really just have to learn these ideas once; after that you can apply them routinely. Whenever you come across a significant web technology you don’t understand, look it up on Google or Wikipedia, and dive into it long enough to acquire a basic understanding of it.  To make money from blogging it’s important to be something of a jack of all trades.  Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.”  That may be true, but you don’t need to master any of these technologies — you just have to be good enough to use them.  It’s the difference between being able to drive a car vs. becoming an auto mechanic.  Strive to achieve functional knowledge, and then move on to something else.  Even though I’m an experienced programmer, I don’t know how many web technologies actually work.  I don’t really care.  I can still use them to generate results.  In the time it would take me to fully understand one new technology, I can achieve sufficient functional knowledge to apply several of them. Thriving on change Your greatest risk isn’t that you’ll make mistakes that will cost you.  Your greatest risk is that you’ll miss opportunities.  You need an entrepreneurial mindset, not an employee mindset.  Don’t be too concerned with the risk of loss — be more concerned with the risk of missed gains.  It’s what you don’t know and what you don’t do that will hurt you the worst.  Blogging is cheap.  Your expenses and financial risk should be minimal.  Your real concern should be missing opportunities that would have made you money very easily.  You need to develop antennae that can listen out for new opportunities.  I highly recommend subscribing to Darren Rowse’s Problogger blog — Darren is great at uncovering new income-generating opportunities for bloggers. The blogosphere changes rapidly, and change creates opportunity.  It takes some brains to decipher these opportunities and to take advantage of them before they disappear.  If you hesitate to capitalize on something new and exciting, you may simply miss out.  Many opportunities are temporary.  And every day you don’t implement them, you’re losing money you could have earned.  And you’re also missing opportunities to build traffic, grow your audience, and benefit more people. I used to get annoyed by the rapid rate of change of web technologies.  It’s even more rapid than what I saw when I worked in the computer gaming industry.  And the rate of change is accelerating.  Almost every week now I learn about some fascinating new web service or idea that could potentially lead to big changes down the road.  Making sense of them is a full-time job in itself.  But I learned to love this insane pace.  If I’m confused then everyone else is probably confused too.  And people who only do this part-time will be very confused.  If they aren’t confused, then they aren’t keeping up.  So if I can be just a little bit faster and understand these technologies just a little bit sooner, then I can capitalize on some serious opportunities before the barriers to entry become too high.  Even though confusion is uncomfortable, it’s really a good thing for a web entrepreneur.  This is what creates the space for a college student to earn $1,000,000 online in just a few months with a clever idea.  Remember this isn’t a zero-sum game.  Don’t let someone else’s success make you feel diminished or jealous.  Let it inspire you instead. What’s your overall income-generation strategy? I don’t want to insult anyone, but most people are utterly clueless when it comes to generating income from their blogs.  They slap things together haphazardly with no rhyme or reason and hope to generate lots of money.  While I’m a strong advocate of the ready-fire-aim approach, that strategy does require that you eventually aim.  Ready-fire-fire-fire-fire will just create a mess. Take a moment to articulate a basic income-generating strategy for your site.  If you aren’t good at strategy, then just come up with a general philosophy for how you’re going to generate income.  You don’t need a full business plan, just a description of how you plan to get from $0 per month to whatever your income goal is.  An initial target goal I used when I first started this site was $3000 per month.  It’s a somewhat arbitrary figure, but I knew if I could reach $3000 per month, I could certainly push it higher, and $3000 is enough income that it’s going to make a meaningful difference in my finances.  I reached that level 15 months after launching the site (in December 2005).  And since then it’s continued to increase nicely.  Blogging income is actually quite easy to maintain.  It’s a lot more secure than a regular job.  No one can fire me, and if one source of income dries up, I can always add new ones.  We’ll address multiple streams of income soon… Are you going to generate income from advertising, affiliate commissions, product sales, donations, or something else?  Maybe you want a combination of these things.  However you decide to generate income, put your basic strategy down in writing.  I took 15 minutes to create a half-page summary of my monetization strategy.  I only update it about once a year and review it once a month.  This isn’t difficult, but it helps me stay focused on where I’m headed.  It also allows me to say no to opportunities that are inconsistent with my plan. Refer to your monetization strategy (or philosophy) when you need to make design decisions for your web site.  Although you may have multiple streams of income, decide which type of income will be your primary source, and design your site around that.  Do you need to funnel people towards an order form, or will you place ads all over the site?  Different monetization strategies suggest different design approaches.  Think about what specific action you want your visitors to eventually take that will generate income for you, and design your site accordingly. When devising your income strategy, feel free to cheat.  Don’t re-invent the wheel.  Copy someone else’s strategy that you’re convinced would work for you too.  Do NOT copy anyone’s content or site layout (that’s copyright infringement), but take note of how they’re making money.  I decided to monetize this site with advertising and affiliate income after researching how various successful bloggers generated income.  Later I added donations as well.  This is an effective combo. Traffic, traffic, traffic Assuming you feel qualified to take on the challenge of generating income from blogging (and I haven’t scared you away yet), the three most important things you need to monetize your blog are traffic, traffic, and traffic. Just to throw out some figures, last month (April 2006), this site received over 1.1 million visitors and over 2.4 million page views.  That’s almost triple what it was just six months ago. Why is traffic so important?  Because for most methods of online income generation, your income is a function of traffic.  If you double your traffic, you’ll probably double your income (assuming your visitor demographics remain fairly consistent).  You can screw almost everything else up, but if you can generate serious traffic, it’s really hard to fail.  With sufficient traffic the realistic worst case is that you’ll eventually be able to monetize your web site via trial and error (as long as you keep those visitors coming). When I first launched this blog, I knew that traffic building was going to be my biggest challenge.  All of my plans hinged on my ability to build traffic.  If I couldn’t build traffic, it was going to be very difficult to succeed.  So I didn’t even try to monetize my site for the first several months.  I just focused on traffic building.  Even after 19 months, traffic building is still the most important part of my monetization plan.  For my current traffic levels, I know I’m undermonetizing my site, but that’s OK.  Right now it’s more important to me to keep growing the site, and I’m optimizing the income generation as I go along. Traffic is the primary fuel of online income generation.  More visitors means more ad clicks, more product sales, more affiliate sales, more donations, more consulting leads, and more of whatever else that generates income for you.  And it also means you’re helping more and more people. With respect to traffic, you should know that in many respects, the rich do get richer.  High traffic leads to even more traffic-building opportunities that just aren’t accessible for low-traffic sites.  On average at least 20 bloggers add new links to my site every day, my articles can easily surge to the top of social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, and I’m getting more frequent requests for radio interviews.  Earlier this year I was featured in USA Today and in Self Magazine, which collectively have millions of readers.  Journalists are finding me by doing Google searches on topics I’ve written about.  These opportunities were not available to me when I was first starting out.  Popular sites have a serious advantage.  The more traffic you have, the more you can attract. If you’re intelligent and web savvy, you should also be able to eventually build a high-traffic web site.  And you’ll be able to leverage that traffic to build even more traffic. How to build traffic Now if traffic is so crucial, how do you build it up to significant levels if you’re starting from rock bottom? I’ve already written a lengthy article on this topic, so I’ll refer you there:  How to Build a High Traffic Web Site (or Blog).  If you don’t have time to read it now, feel free to bookmark it or print it out for later.  That article covers my general philosophy of traffic-building, which centers on creating content that provides genuine value to your visitors.  No games or gimmicks. There is one other important traffic-building tip I’ll provide here though. Blog Carnivals.  Take full advantage of blog carnivals when you’re just starting out (click the previous link and read the FAQ there to learn what carnivals are if you don’t already know).  Periodically submit your best blog posts to the appropriate carnivals for your niche.  Carnivals are easy ways to get links and traffic, and best of all, they’re free.  Submitting only takes minutes if you use a multi-carnvival submission form.  Do NOT spam the carnivals with irrelevant material — only submit to the carnivals that are a match for your content. In my early traffic-building days, I’d do carnivals submissions once a week, and it helped a great deal in going from nothing to about 50,000 visitors per month.  You still have to produce great content, but carnivals give you a free shot at marketing your unknown blog.  Free marketing is precisely the kind of opportunity you don’t want to miss.  Carnivals are like an open-mic night at a comedy club — they give amateurs a chance to show off their stuff.  I still submit to certain carnivals every once in a while, but now my traffic is so high that relatively speaking, they don’t make much difference anymore.  Just to increase my traffic by 1% in a month, I need 11,000 new visitors, and even the best carnivals don’t push that much traffic.  But you can pick up dozens or even hundreds of new subscribers from each round of carnival submissions, so it’s a great place to start.  Plus it’s very easy. If your traffic isn’t growing month after month, does it mean you’re doing something wrong?  Most likely you aren’t doing enough things right.  Again, making mistakes is not the issue.  Missing opportunities is. Will putting ads on your site hurt your traffic? Here’s a common fear I hear from people who are considering monetizing their web sites: Putting ads on my site will cripple my traffic.  The ads will drive people away, and they’ll never come back. Well, in my experience this is absolutely, positively, and otherwise completely and totally… FALSE.  It’s just not true.  Guess what happened to my traffic when I put ads on my site.  Nothing.  Guess what happened to my traffic when I put up more ads and donation links.  Nothing.  I could detect no net effect on my traffic whatsoever.  Traffic continued increasing at the same rate it did before there were ads on my site.  In fact, it might have even helped me a little, since some bloggers actually linked to my site just to point out that they didn’t like my ad layout.  I’ll leave it up to you to form your own theories about this.  It’s probably because there’s so much advertising online already that even though some people will complain when a free site puts up ads, if they value the content, they’ll still come back, regardless of what they say publicly. Most mature people understand it’s reasonable for a blogger to earn income from his/her work.  I think I’m lucky in that my audience tends to be very mature — immature people generally aren’t interested in personal development.  To create an article like this takes serious effort, not to mention the hard-earned experience that’s required to write it.  This article alone took me over 15 hours of writing and editing.  I think it’s perfectly reasonable to earn an income from such work.  If you get no value from it, you don’t pay anything.  What could be more fair than that?  The more income this blog generates, the more I can put into it.  For example, I used some of the income to buy podcasting equipment and added a podcast to the site.  I’ve recorded 13 episodes so far.  The podcasts are all ad-free.  I’m also planning to add some additional services to this site in the years ahead.  More income = better service. At the time of this writing, my site is very ad-heavy.  Some people point this out to me as if I’m not aware of it:  “You know, Steve.  Your web site seems to contain an awful lot of ads.”  Of course I’m aware of it.  I’m the one who put the ads there.  There’s a reason I have this configuration of ads.  They’re effective!  People keep clicking on them.  If they weren’t effective, I’d remove them right away and try something else. I do avoid putting up ads that I personally find annoying when I see them on other sites, including pop-ups and interstitials (stuff that flies across your screen).  Even though they’d make me more money, in my opinion they degrade the visitor experience too much. I also provide two ad-free outlets, so if you really don’t like ads, you can actually read my content without ads.  First, I provide a full-text RSS feed, and at least for now it’s ad-free.  I do, however, include a donation request in the bottom of my feeds. If you want to see some actual traffic data, take a look at the 2005 traffic growth chart.  I first put ads on the site in February 2005, and although the chart doesn’t cover pre-February traffic growth, the growth rate was very similar before then.  For an independent source, you can also look at my traffic chart on Alexa.  You can select different Range options to go further back in time. Multiple streams of income You don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket.  Think multiple streams of income.  On this site I actually have six different streams of income.  Can you count them all?  Here’s a list: Google Adsense ads (pay per click and pay per impression advertising) Donations (via PayPal or snail mail — yes, some people do mail a check) Text Link Ads (sold for a fixed amount per month) Chitika eMiniMalls ads (pay per click) Affiliate programs like Amazon and LinkShare (commission on products sold, mostly books) Advertising sold to individual advertisers (three-month campaigns or longer) Note:  If you’re reading this article a while after its original publication date, then this list is likely to change.  I frequently experiment with different streams. Adsense is my biggest single source of income, but some of the others do pretty well too.  Every stream generates more than $100/month. My second biggest income stream is actually donations.  My average donation is about $10, and I’ve received a number of $100 donations too.  It only took me about an hour to set this up via PayPal.  So even if your content is free like mine, give your visitors a means to voluntarily contribute if they wish.  It’s win-win.  I’m very grateful for the visitor support.  It’s a nice form of feedback too, since I notice that certain articles produced a surge in donations — this tells me I’m hitting the mark and giving people genuine value. These aren’t my only streams of income though.  I’ve been earning income online since 1995.  With my computer games business, I have direct sales, royalty income, some advertising income, affiliate income, and donations (from the free articles).  And if you throw in my wife’s streams of income, it gets really ridiculous:  advertising, direct book sales, book sales through distributors, web consulting, affiliate income, more Adsense income, and probably a few sources I forgot.  Suffice it to say we receive a lot of paychecks.  Some of them are small, but they add up.  It’s also extremely low risk — if one source of income dries up, we just expand existing sources or create new ones.  I encourage you to think of your blog as a potential outlet for multiple streams of income too. Automated income With the exception of #6, all of these income sources are fully automated.  I don’t have to do anything to maintain them except deposit checks, and in most cases I don’t even have to do that because the money is automatically deposited to my bank account. I love automated income.  With this blog I currently have no sales, no employees, no products, no inventory, no credit card processing, no fraud, and no customers.  And yet I’m still able to generate a reasonable (and growing) income. Why get a regular job and trade your time for money when you can let technology do all that work for you?  Imagine how it would feel to wake up each morning, go to your computer, and check how much money you made while you were sleeping.  It’s a really nice situation to be in. Blogging software and hardware I use WordPress for this blog, and I highly recommend it.  Wordpress has lots of features and a solid interface.  And you can’t beat its price — free. The rest of this site is custom-coded HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL.  I’m a programmer, so I coded it all myself.  I could have just as easily used an existing template, but I wanted a simple straightforward design for this site, and I wanted the look of the blog to match the rest of the site.  Plus I use PHP and MySQL to do some creative things outside the blog, like the Million Dollar Experiment. I don’t recommend using a hosted service like Blogger if you want to seriously monetize your blog.  You don’t get enough control.  If you don’t have your own URL, you’re tying yourself to a service you don’t own and building up someone else’s asset.  You want to build page rank and links for your own URL, not someone else’s.  Plus you want sufficient control over the layout and design of your site, so you can jump on any opportunities that require low-level changes.  If you use a hosted blog, you’re at the mercy of the hosting service, and that puts the future of any income streams you create with them at risk.  It’s a bit more work up front to self-host, but it’s less risky in the long run. Web hosting is cheap, and there are plenty of good hosts to choose from.  I recommend Pair.com for a starter hosting account.  They aren’t the cheapest, but they’re very reliable and have decent support.  I know many online businesses that host with them, and my wife refers most of her clients there. As your traffic grows you may need to upgrade to a dedicated server or a virtual private server (VPS).  This web site is hosted by ServInt.  I’ve hosted this site with them since day one, and they’ve been a truly awesome host.  What I like most about them is that they have a smooth upgrade path as my traffic keeps growing.  I’ve gone through several upgrades with them already, and all have been seamless.  The nice thing about having your own server is that you can put as many sites on it as the server can handle.  I have several sites running on my server, and it doesn’t cost me any additional hosting fees to add another site. Comments or no comments When I began this blog, I started out with comments enabled.  As traffic grew, so did the level of commenting.  Some days there were more than 100 comments.  I noticed I was spending more and more time managing comments, and I began to question whether it was worth the effort.  It became clear that with continued traffic growth, I was going to have to change my approach or die in comment hell.  The personal development topics I write about can easily generate lots of questions and discussion.  Just imagine how many follow-up questions an article like this could generate.  With tens of thousands of readers, it would be insane.  Also, nuking comment spam was chewing up more and more of my time as well. But after looking through my stats, I soon realized that only a tiny fraction of visitors ever look at comments at all, and an even smaller fraction ever post a comment (well below 1% of total visitors).  That made my decision a lot easier, and in October 2005, I turned blog comments off.  In retrospect that was one of my best decisions.  I wish I had done it sooner. If you’d like to read the full details of how I came to this decision, I’ve written about it previously:  Blog Comments and More on Blog Comments. Do you need comments to build traffic?  Obviously not.  Just like when I put up ads, I saw no decline in traffic when I turned off comments.  In fact, I think it actually helped me.  Although I turned off comments, I kept trackbacks enabled, so I started getting more trackbacks.  If people wanted to publicly comment on something I’d written, they had to do so on their own blogs and post a link.  So turning off comments didn’t kill the discussion — it just took it off site.  The volume of trackbacks is far more reasonable, and I can easily keep up with it.  I even pop onto other people’s sites and post comments now and then, but I don’t feel obligated to participate because the discussion isn’t on my own site. I realize people have very strong feelings about blog comments and community building.  Many people hold the opinion that a blog without comments just isn’t a blog.  Personally I think that’s utter nonsense — the data just doesn’t support it.  The vast majority of blog readers neither read nor post comments.  Only a very tiny and very vocal group even care about comments.  Some bloggers say that having comments helps build traffic, but I saw no evidence of that.  In fact, I think it’s just the opposite.  Managing comments detracts from writing new posts, and it’s far better to get a trackback and a link from someone else’s blog vs. a comment on your own blog.  As long-term readers of my blog know, when faced with ambiguity, my preference is to try both alternatives and compare real results with real results.  After doing that my conclusion is this:  No comment.  Now if you want to support comments for non-traffic-building reasons like socializing or making new contacts, I say go for it.  Just don’t assume that comments are necessary or even helpful in building traffic unless you directly test this assumption yourself. Build a complete web site, not just a blog Don’t limit your web site to just a blog.  Feel free to build it out.  Although most of my traffic goes straight to this blog, there’s a whole site built around it.  For example, the home page of this site presents an overview of all the sections of the site, including the blog, article section, audio content, etc.  A lot of people still don’t know what a blog is, so if your whole site is your blog, those people may be a little confused. Testing and optimization In the beginning you won’t know which potential streams of income will work best for you.  So try everything that’s reasonable for you.  If you learn about a new potential income stream, test it for a month or two, and measure the results for yourself.  Feel free to cut streams that just aren’t working for you, and put more effort into optimizing those streams that show real promise. A few months ago, I signed up for an account with Text Link Ads.  It took about 20 minutes.  They sell small text ads on my site, split the revenue with me 50-50, and deposit my earnings directly into my PayPal account.  This month I’ll make around $600 from them, possibly more if they sell some new ads during the month.  And it’s totally passive.  If I never tried this, I’d miss out on this easy extra income. For many months I’ve been tweaking the Adsense ads on this site.  I tried different colors, sizes, layouts, etc.  I continue to experiment now and then, but I have a hard time beating the current layout.  It works very well for me.  Adsense doesn’t allow publishers to reveal specific CPM and CTR data, but mine are definitely above par.  They started out in the gutter though.  You can easily double or triple your Adsense revenue by converting a poor layout into a better one.  This is the main reason why during my first year of income, my traffic grew at 20% per month, but my income grew at 50% per month.  Frequent testing and optimization had a major positive impact.  Many of my tests failed, and some even made my income go down, but I’m glad I did all that testing.  If I didn’t then my Adsense income would only be a fraction of what it is now. It’s cheap to experiment.  Every new advertising or affiliate service I’ve tried so far has been free to sign up.  Often I can add a new income stream in less than an hour and then wait a month to see how it does.  If it flops then at least I learned something.  If it does well, wonderful.  As a blogger who wants to generate income, you should always be experimenting with new income streams.  If you haven’t tried anything new in six months, you’re almost certainly missing some golden opportunities.  Every blog is different, so you need to test things for yourself to see what works for you.  Failure is impossible here — you either succeed, or you learn something. Pick your niche, but make sure it isn’t too small Pick a niche for your blog where you have some significant expertise, but make sure it’s a big enough niche that you can build significant traffic.  My wife runs a popular vegan web site.  She does pretty well within her niche, but it’s just not a very big niche.  On the other hand, my topic of personal development has much broader appeal.  Potentially anyone can be interested in improving themselves, and I have the flexibility to write about topics like productivity, self-discipline, relationships, spirituality, health, and more.  It’s all relevant to personal development. Pick a niche that you’re passionate about.  I’ve written 400+ articles so far, and I still feel like I’m just getting started.  I’m not feeling burnt out at all.  I chose to build a personal development site because I’m very knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate about this subject.  I couldn’t imagine a better topic for me to write about. Don’t pick a niche just because you think it will make you money.  I see many bloggers try to do that, and it’s almost invariably a recipe for failure.  Think about what you love most, and then find a way to make your topic appealing to a massive global audience.  Consider what will provide genuine value to your visitors.  It’s all about what you can give. A broad enough topic creates more potential advertising partners.  If I keep writing on the same subtopic over and over, I may exhaust the supply of advertisers and hit an income ceiling.  But by writing on many different topics under the same umbrella, I widen the field of potential advertisers.  And I expand the appeal of my site at the same time. Make it clear to your visitors what your blog/site is about.  Often I visit a blog with a clever title and tagline that reveals nothing about the site’s contents.  In that case I generally assume it’s just a personal journal and move on.  I love to be clever too, but I’ve found that clarity yields better results than cleverness. Posting frequency and length Bloggers have different opinions about the right posting length and frequency.  Some bloggers say it’s best to write short (250-750 word) entries and post 20x per week or more.  I’ve seen that strategy work for some, but I decided to do pretty much the opposite.  I usually aim for about 3-5 posts per week, but my posts are much longer (typically 1000-2000 words, sometimes longer than 5000 words, including the monster you’re reading right now).  That’s because rather than throwing out lots of short tips, I prefer to write more exhaustive, in-depth articles.  I find that deeper articles are better at generating links and referrals and building traffic.  It’s true that fewer people will take the time to read them, but those that do will enjoy some serious take-away value.  I don’t believe in creating disposable content just to increase page views and ad impressions.  If I’m not truly helping my visitors, I’m wasting their time. Expenses Blogging is dirt cheap. I don’t spend money on advertising or promotion, so my marketing expenses are nil.  Essentially my content is my marketing.  If you like this article, you’ll probably find many more gems in the archives. My only real expenses for this site are the hosting (I currently pay $149/month for the web server and bandwidth) and the domain name renewal ($9/year).  Nearly all of the income this site generates is profit.  This trickles down to my personal income, so of course it’s subject to income tax.  But the actual business expenses are minimal. The reason I pay so much for hosting is simply due to my traffic.  If my traffic were much lower, I could run this site on a cheap shared hosting account.  A database-driven blog can be a real resource hog at high traffic levels.  The same goes for online forums.  As traffic continues to increase, my hosting bill will go up too, but it will still be a tiny fraction of total income. Perks Depending on the nature of your blog, you may be able to enjoy some nice perks as your traffic grows.  Almost every week I get free personal development books in the mail (for potential review on this site).  Sometimes the author will send it directly; other times the publisher will ship me a batch of books.  I also receive CDs, DVDs, and other personal development products.  It’s hard to keep up sometimes (I have a queue of about two dozen books right now), but I am a voracious consumer of such products, so I do plow through them as fast as I can.  When something strikes me as worthy of mention, I do indeed write up a review to share it with my visitors.  I have very high standards though, so I review less than 10% of what I receive.  I’ve read over 700 books in this field and listened to dozens of audio programs, so I’m pretty good at filtering out the fluff.  As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a great deal of self-help fluff out there. My criteria for reviewing a product on this site is that it has to be original, compelling, and profound.  If it doesn’t meet these criteria, I don’t review it, even if there’s a generous affiliate program.  I’m not going to risk abusing my relationship with my visitors just to make a quick buck.  Making money is not my main motivation for running this site.  My main motivation is to grow and to help others grow, so that always comes first. Your blog can also gain you access to certain events.  A high-traffic blog becomes a potential media outlet, so you can actually think of yourself as a member of the press, which indeed you are.  In a few days, my wife and I will be attending a three-day seminar via a free press pass.  The regular price for these tickets is $500 per person.  I’ll be posting a full review of the seminar next week.  I’ve been to this particular seminar in 2004, so I already have high expectations for it.  Dr. Wayne Dyer will be the keynote speaker. I’m also using the popularity of this blog to set up interviews with people I’ve always wanted to learn more about.  This is beautifully win-win because it creates value for me, my audience, and the person being interviewed.  Recently I posted an exclusive interview with multi-millionaire Marc Allen as well as a review of his latest book, and I’m lining up other interviews as well.  It isn’t hard to convince someone to do an interview in exchange for so much free exposure. Motivation I don’t think you’ll get very far if money is your #1 motivation for blogging.  You have to be driven by something much deeper.  Money is just frosting.  It’s the cake underneath that matters.  My cake is that I absolutely love personal development – not the phony “fast and easy” junk you see on infomercials, but real growth that makes us better human beings.  That’s my passion.  Pouring money on top of it just adds more fuel to the fire, but the fire is still there with or without the money. What’s your passion?  What would you blog about if you were already set for life? Blogging lifestyle Perhaps the best part of generating income from blogging is the freedom it brings.  I work from home and set my own hours.  I write whenever I’m inspired to write (which for me is quite often).  Plus I get to spend my time doing what I love most — working on personal growth and helping others do the same.  There’s nothing I’d rather do than this. Perhaps it’s true that 99 out of 100 people can’t make a decent living from blogging yet.  But maybe you’re among the 1 in 100 who can. On the other hand, I can offer you a good alternative to recommend if you don’t have the technical skills to build a high-traffic, income-generating blog. Check out Build Your Own Successful Online Business for details.
    Jul 12, 2011 1412
  • 12 Jul 2011
    This is a post about a major shift in my thinking that occurred several years ago, a shift that caused a dramatic improvement in my enjoyment of life.  If you’d like to experience more joy in your life right now instead of merely hoping things will get better in your future, you might find this story helpful. Many years ago when I was developing computer games, one of my goals was to become very wealthy.  I figured that would be a very positive goal to achieve, one that would give me a lot more freedom.  However, I noticed that even though I was running my own business, I wasn’t enjoying much freedom in the present.  I had to answer to publishers, customers, and other stakeholders.  I had to meet deadlines set by others.  And I had to do many tasks I didn’t particularly like.  When I gazed into the future, I saw the potential for wealth and freedom, but in order to reach that point, I would have to endure a definite absence of those qualities in the present. Initially this plan of delayed gratification seemed sensible and intelligent to me.  Shouldn’t I make sacrifices while I’m young in order to create a better future for myself?  Wouldn’t it be great to become a millionaire in my 20s? But something about that mindset didn’t sit right with me.  My intellect liked it, but my intuition kept fighting it.  I experienced a major head-vs-heart battle as I pondered the issue of sacrificing freedom in the present in order to achieve supposedly greater freedom in the future.  I figured it was just a matter of discipline and self-sacrifice and that in the long run, all my efforts would pay off.  But after years of hard work and encountering some major roadblocks along the way, I felt like I just wasn’t getting any closer to my goal.  It always seemed to be just a few more years away. While browsing through a bookstore one day, a certain book practically jumped off the shelf at me:  Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.  I had such a strong intuitive sense about the book that I just bought it right away. The Power of Now is the sort of book that continues to swirl about in your consciousness weeks after you’ve read it.  It left me permanently changed. The basic principle of the book is quite simple — nothing exists outside this present moment.  But that’s a very different way of thinking than I was used to.  I used to think of my lifetime as a line segment from birth to death.  The present moment was a single point on that line moving slowly forward.  The past was the part of the line behind that point, and the future was the part ahead of it.  After reading The Power of Now, I stopped thinking of my life in this way.  I finally understood that this model was extremely disempowering. The Power of Now taught me that there is no line segment.  The point is all there is.  The past and the future are illusions.  They only exist to the degree we focus our attention on them right now.  We create the past and the future by imagining them in the present.  But we don’t even exist outside the Now. This might seem like just a semantic difference, perhaps even an erroneous one, but it was a radical new way of thinking for me, and I was eager to test it.  As I grasped the idea that nothing exists outside this present moment, I turned my overall life strategy upside down.  I understood that if I am to experience anything in life, I must create it in this moment.  It must exist in some form right now, or it doesn’t exist at all.  So the idea of creating freedom and wealth in the future by constraining myself in the present was nothing but a fool’s errand.  That future would never arrive as long as I was creating confinement and scarcity in the here and now.  The future is certainly a convenient mental construct, but I found that projecting too much of what I wanted into my future was hurting the enjoyment of my present.  What’s the point of working to create a future of joy and freedom if my present reality is just the opposite?  If I wanted freedom and wealth in the future, I had to seed its creation right here, right now.  The only power I have to create anything is here in the present.  I adopted the mindset, “If it doesn’t exist in some form right now, it never will exist.” This shift in thinking produced a significant shift in my priorities.  I began focusing more of my energy on improving the quality of my present reality instead of projecting all those improvements into the realm of someday.  I started asking questions like, “How can I experience more joy in this very moment?” My present reality didn’t transform instantly, but it did change massively over a period of years.  As part of this process, I eventually stopped developing computer games and shifted my focus to personal development full-time.  Why?  Largely because I enjoyed personal development more than game development.  I got rid of my office and began working from home.  I stopped doing deadline-oriented project work and started blogging and writing articles I could complete in a single sitting.  I started taking more time off.  I began doing more things I enjoyed, such as exercising, reading, meditating, and spending time with my wife.  I became less stingy with my cash and began spending it more liberally when the situation warranted. I was initially concerned that focusing too much on the present moment would make me shortsighted.  But my experience has been just the opposite.  I’m still able to make plans for the future and work on long-term goals.  In the past I would set goals because I believed that achieving those goals would increase my happiness.  But now the flow goes in reverse.  Today I set goals to increase my expression of the happiness I’m already enjoying. Consider the goal of building web traffic.  With my games business, I wanted to build web traffic because of what I thought it would bring me:  more leads, more sales, more money, more success, etc.  With this personal development business, I also want to keep building web traffic.  But now it’s mainly because I’m so passionate about the work I’m doing that I want to share it with as many people as possible.  Again, the flow has been reversed.  I don’t look to this business to make me happy.  I look to this business to express my happiness outward and to share it with others. The big irony is that my future is in much better shape even though I focus most of my attention on the present.  By making my present reality as enjoyable as possible, my motivation has just been soaring.  I’m working from a state of joy instead of a feeling of obligation.  I write because I enjoy writing, not because I feel I must keep writing in order to make money.  If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t write.  Whenever I feel like taking several days off, I do that. I’ve actually created the very situation I was hoping money would someday grant me.  I imagined what I would do if I was already rich beyond my wildest dreams.  I saw myself spending lots of time working on personal growth, doing all sorts of interesting experiments, and then sharing what I learned with others.  I thought to myself, “That would be a truly incredible life for me.”  But instead of waiting to become rich first, I decided to find a way to make it happen right now, even if I’d only be doing it for free in my spare time.  I realized that telling myself I would do certain things after I was rich was just an excuse.  Do you ever catch yourself saying, “Someday when I’m rich, I’ll do X”?  Deep down you know that it isn’t a lack of money that’s holding you back though — it’s just fear.  Why not find a way to do those things right now, if only on a small scale? This line of thinking produced some amazing results for me.  Even though I don’t have millions of dollars in the bank, I feel like I’m already living the way I would live if I were financially set for life.  If I won $100 million in the lottery, I’d keep doing what I’m doing right now.  The money would simply expand my capacity but not the essence of what I’m doing.  What would you do if you were already set for life?  Figure out what that is, and find a way to begin doing it on some level right now. Today I’m so happy it’s almost ridiculous.  I couldn’t even have imagined being this happy on a daily basis five years ago.  And I certainly wasn’t depressed back then — I was at least content.  But now my default emotional state is highly positive, not just neutral.  I stopped seeking happiness in the future and instead looked for ways to create it right now. I’ve noticed that the happier I feel, the less attached I am to outcomes.  Instead of trying to acquire money, possessions, or other externalities, my focus has shifted to self-expression.  I have a burning desire to create.  Instead of having a craving to eat, it’s like I have a craving to cook.  But of course by focusing on expressing instead of acquiring, I end up doing the very things that enable me to easily acquire whatever I want.  Really I’m just doing what I love most. How do you feel about your life right this moment?  Are you gushingly positive and overflowing with passion? Or do you find yourself stuck in the same situation I was in several years ago, sacrificing your present happiness for the hope of a better tomorrow?  How is that strategy working for you?  Are you becoming significantly happier and more fulfilled with each passing year?  Or are you just running on a treadmill while trying to convince yourself that someday things will be better? There is no someday, you know.  There is only right now.  If your current life path isn’t a joyful one, turn around and take a different path.  Other people will probably whine about your decision — no one on the treadmill of unhappiness likes being reminded that it’s possible to get off at any time.  But I’ll tell you that a few years later, those same people will be asking you for help to make the same choice, especially when they see how disgustingly happy you are. 
    899 Posted by UniqueThis
  • This is a post about a major shift in my thinking that occurred several years ago, a shift that caused a dramatic improvement in my enjoyment of life.  If you’d like to experience more joy in your life right now instead of merely hoping things will get better in your future, you might find this story helpful. Many years ago when I was developing computer games, one of my goals was to become very wealthy.  I figured that would be a very positive goal to achieve, one that would give me a lot more freedom.  However, I noticed that even though I was running my own business, I wasn’t enjoying much freedom in the present.  I had to answer to publishers, customers, and other stakeholders.  I had to meet deadlines set by others.  And I had to do many tasks I didn’t particularly like.  When I gazed into the future, I saw the potential for wealth and freedom, but in order to reach that point, I would have to endure a definite absence of those qualities in the present. Initially this plan of delayed gratification seemed sensible and intelligent to me.  Shouldn’t I make sacrifices while I’m young in order to create a better future for myself?  Wouldn’t it be great to become a millionaire in my 20s? But something about that mindset didn’t sit right with me.  My intellect liked it, but my intuition kept fighting it.  I experienced a major head-vs-heart battle as I pondered the issue of sacrificing freedom in the present in order to achieve supposedly greater freedom in the future.  I figured it was just a matter of discipline and self-sacrifice and that in the long run, all my efforts would pay off.  But after years of hard work and encountering some major roadblocks along the way, I felt like I just wasn’t getting any closer to my goal.  It always seemed to be just a few more years away. While browsing through a bookstore one day, a certain book practically jumped off the shelf at me:  Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.  I had such a strong intuitive sense about the book that I just bought it right away. The Power of Now is the sort of book that continues to swirl about in your consciousness weeks after you’ve read it.  It left me permanently changed. The basic principle of the book is quite simple — nothing exists outside this present moment.  But that’s a very different way of thinking than I was used to.  I used to think of my lifetime as a line segment from birth to death.  The present moment was a single point on that line moving slowly forward.  The past was the part of the line behind that point, and the future was the part ahead of it.  After reading The Power of Now, I stopped thinking of my life in this way.  I finally understood that this model was extremely disempowering. The Power of Now taught me that there is no line segment.  The point is all there is.  The past and the future are illusions.  They only exist to the degree we focus our attention on them right now.  We create the past and the future by imagining them in the present.  But we don’t even exist outside the Now. This might seem like just a semantic difference, perhaps even an erroneous one, but it was a radical new way of thinking for me, and I was eager to test it.  As I grasped the idea that nothing exists outside this present moment, I turned my overall life strategy upside down.  I understood that if I am to experience anything in life, I must create it in this moment.  It must exist in some form right now, or it doesn’t exist at all.  So the idea of creating freedom and wealth in the future by constraining myself in the present was nothing but a fool’s errand.  That future would never arrive as long as I was creating confinement and scarcity in the here and now.  The future is certainly a convenient mental construct, but I found that projecting too much of what I wanted into my future was hurting the enjoyment of my present.  What’s the point of working to create a future of joy and freedom if my present reality is just the opposite?  If I wanted freedom and wealth in the future, I had to seed its creation right here, right now.  The only power I have to create anything is here in the present.  I adopted the mindset, “If it doesn’t exist in some form right now, it never will exist.” This shift in thinking produced a significant shift in my priorities.  I began focusing more of my energy on improving the quality of my present reality instead of projecting all those improvements into the realm of someday.  I started asking questions like, “How can I experience more joy in this very moment?” My present reality didn’t transform instantly, but it did change massively over a period of years.  As part of this process, I eventually stopped developing computer games and shifted my focus to personal development full-time.  Why?  Largely because I enjoyed personal development more than game development.  I got rid of my office and began working from home.  I stopped doing deadline-oriented project work and started blogging and writing articles I could complete in a single sitting.  I started taking more time off.  I began doing more things I enjoyed, such as exercising, reading, meditating, and spending time with my wife.  I became less stingy with my cash and began spending it more liberally when the situation warranted. I was initially concerned that focusing too much on the present moment would make me shortsighted.  But my experience has been just the opposite.  I’m still able to make plans for the future and work on long-term goals.  In the past I would set goals because I believed that achieving those goals would increase my happiness.  But now the flow goes in reverse.  Today I set goals to increase my expression of the happiness I’m already enjoying. Consider the goal of building web traffic.  With my games business, I wanted to build web traffic because of what I thought it would bring me:  more leads, more sales, more money, more success, etc.  With this personal development business, I also want to keep building web traffic.  But now it’s mainly because I’m so passionate about the work I’m doing that I want to share it with as many people as possible.  Again, the flow has been reversed.  I don’t look to this business to make me happy.  I look to this business to express my happiness outward and to share it with others. The big irony is that my future is in much better shape even though I focus most of my attention on the present.  By making my present reality as enjoyable as possible, my motivation has just been soaring.  I’m working from a state of joy instead of a feeling of obligation.  I write because I enjoy writing, not because I feel I must keep writing in order to make money.  If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t write.  Whenever I feel like taking several days off, I do that. I’ve actually created the very situation I was hoping money would someday grant me.  I imagined what I would do if I was already rich beyond my wildest dreams.  I saw myself spending lots of time working on personal growth, doing all sorts of interesting experiments, and then sharing what I learned with others.  I thought to myself, “That would be a truly incredible life for me.”  But instead of waiting to become rich first, I decided to find a way to make it happen right now, even if I’d only be doing it for free in my spare time.  I realized that telling myself I would do certain things after I was rich was just an excuse.  Do you ever catch yourself saying, “Someday when I’m rich, I’ll do X”?  Deep down you know that it isn’t a lack of money that’s holding you back though — it’s just fear.  Why not find a way to do those things right now, if only on a small scale? This line of thinking produced some amazing results for me.  Even though I don’t have millions of dollars in the bank, I feel like I’m already living the way I would live if I were financially set for life.  If I won $100 million in the lottery, I’d keep doing what I’m doing right now.  The money would simply expand my capacity but not the essence of what I’m doing.  What would you do if you were already set for life?  Figure out what that is, and find a way to begin doing it on some level right now. Today I’m so happy it’s almost ridiculous.  I couldn’t even have imagined being this happy on a daily basis five years ago.  And I certainly wasn’t depressed back then — I was at least content.  But now my default emotional state is highly positive, not just neutral.  I stopped seeking happiness in the future and instead looked for ways to create it right now. I’ve noticed that the happier I feel, the less attached I am to outcomes.  Instead of trying to acquire money, possessions, or other externalities, my focus has shifted to self-expression.  I have a burning desire to create.  Instead of having a craving to eat, it’s like I have a craving to cook.  But of course by focusing on expressing instead of acquiring, I end up doing the very things that enable me to easily acquire whatever I want.  Really I’m just doing what I love most. How do you feel about your life right this moment?  Are you gushingly positive and overflowing with passion? Or do you find yourself stuck in the same situation I was in several years ago, sacrificing your present happiness for the hope of a better tomorrow?  How is that strategy working for you?  Are you becoming significantly happier and more fulfilled with each passing year?  Or are you just running on a treadmill while trying to convince yourself that someday things will be better? There is no someday, you know.  There is only right now.  If your current life path isn’t a joyful one, turn around and take a different path.  Other people will probably whine about your decision — no one on the treadmill of unhappiness likes being reminded that it’s possible to get off at any time.  But I’ll tell you that a few years later, those same people will be asking you for help to make the same choice, especially when they see how disgustingly happy you are. 
    Jul 12, 2011 899
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Some people claim they work well in a high-stress environment.  I’m not one of them.  My productivity is highest when I’m fully relaxed.  With inspiring goals I still feel a positive urging to get my work done, but the pressure to work stems from passion instead of fear. Last year I made changes to my home office to better relaxify it (I know relaxify isn’t a word, but it should be).  I enjoy being in my workspace, and I can work productively for many hours without feeling like I’ve lost my humanity. When considering changes to your workspace, here’s rule #1:  If it feels right to you, it is right.  That rule is primary; my specific suggestions are secondary. With that in mind, here are 10 suggestions for creating a more relaxing workspace: 1. Make your workspace look attractive to you. When I walk through a typical corporate office building, I see the most dreadfully sterile workspaces.  It doesn’t look remotely human.  Do people get hired to work there… or assimilated? Must a professional workspace be a sterile sea of beige and gray?  Remember that where you work, you also live.  Given the amount of time you’ll be living in your workspace over the course of your lifetime, it makes sense to add some visual appeal. The first time you see your workspace each day, you should feel good about it.  It should be attractive to you.  Really it should be your favorite place in the entire building, house, or campus.  If you’re in your workspace right now, please step outside for a minute, and then re-enter it while paying close attention to your sense impressions.  What’s the very first emotional response you can detect?  Do you feel stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Bored?  Apathetic?  Focused?  Peaceful?  Is this an emotion you experience often while working? Now choose the emotion you want to feel, and experiment with different visual elements to see how they alter your feelings.  Try new furniture, photos, posters, mirrors, flowers, knick knacks, toys, statues, rugs, artwork, crystals, etc.  If you have the necessary control, you can also tweak the lighting in your workspace to create the right type of mood.  I know a programmer who works in a completely dark room with no windows, he loves it. 2. Clear out the clutter. One look at a cluttered workspace, and you get a sense that the person working there is stressed, overwhelmed, and disorganized.  Years ago I read about a study that concluded most managers will not promote a person with a messy workspace into a position of responsibility.  It’s assumed that if you can’t organize your physical environment, you’re probably incompetent to a certain degree and can’t be trusted.  And if layoffs happen, you can imagine who the most obvious targets are. But even more critical is the effect a cluttered workspace has on your focus.  It’s difficult to feel centered when you’re surrounded by unfinished tasks that constantly remind you of what you haven’t done yet.  Ideally the only paper items on your desk should be directly related to the current task at hand.  Store everything else in drawers, shelves, or cabinets.  Many people notice a dramatic improvement to their productivity when they try this. For how-to tips on organizing your workspace, be sure to read Getting Organized. 3. Add plants. Plants are a wonderful way to add life to a lifeless workspace.  Use only living, oxygen-generating plants, not lifeless fake ones.  Water them as needed to keep them healthy.  Over time you’ll find that your plants begin to resonate with you and become a reflection of you.  Dying plants = dead career.  Fake plants = appears successful but empty on the inside.  Healthy plants = healthy career.  Lots of plants = abundance.  Bring yourself back to nature by adding some plants to your workspace, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the environment much more. I currently have three plants in my office, and I’ll soon add more.  Two are lucky bamboo plants.  Are they really lucky?  Since I bought them last year, the income I receive from this site has increased by about a factor of 100, so who knows?  I added a small mirror behind them as well, which doubles their visual presence without taking up extra space.  Maybe that doubles my luck too.  4. Make it smell good. Australian dentist Paddy Lund has his staff bake fresh muffins for his patients daily.  Think about how a dentist’s office usually smells.  Now imagine walking into one that smells of blueberry muffins.  Along with other changes, this reportedly helped Lund increase his income by a factor of 10.  I’m not suggesting you add a Holly Hobby Easy Bake Oven to your workspace, but there are plenty of practical ways to make it smell better than cleaning supplies. A while back I read that certain scents have a measurable effect on productivity.  If I recall correctly, lemon and lavender produced the most significant positive results. Personally I love scented candles, especially the 3″x6″ pillars.  They not only make my office smell good, but the colorful candles and decorative candle holders add visual appeal as well.  My favorites aromas are vanilla and lemon.  I have almost a dozen scented candles in my office at any one time.  I find it worthwhile to pay for good quality candles.  I’m no candle expert, but I’ve noticed that the cheapest ones tend to burn unevenly, become terribly misshapen as they burn down, and don’t produce a very rich aroma. Occasionally I’ll burn some Tahitian vanilla incense, but I use that very sparingly and wouldn’t recommend it in a corporate environment because you’ll stink up the whole building.  I burn it right next to an open window, which dilutes the scent and keeps the room from becoming smoky. If you don’t like candles, there are other options for improving the smell of your office.  You can get a diffuser and fill it with essential oil, add some potpourri, or even try sliced lemons.  Be careful when considering chemical air fresheners though, as there are reports they can pose health risks. 5. Play relaxing music. Experiment with different types of music to see what effect they have on your stress level and productivity.  Use headphones if you need to keep from disturbing others. I prefer total silence when I do certain types of work, but for everyday tasks I like listening to music.  I use the free WinAmp player and listen to streaming music from Digitally Imported.  After listening to DI’s free streams for years, I finally bought a subscription ($60 for a year).  The subscription streams are higher quality, more reliable (no time-outs or disconnects so far), and commercial-free.  My favorite streams are Vocal Trance and New Age. 6. Get a decent chair. Most likely you’ll use your chair more than any other object in your workspace, so consider investing in a good one.  Today there’s an assortment of oddities you can sit on, including knee chairs, balls, and more.  Head to an office supply store and find something that suits you.  If your company won’t get you a decent chair, then consider buying your own. I don’t own a super-expensive chair (I think it was $200 originally), but it works for me.  It keeps my spine straight, and I can sit for hours without pain or discomfort.  I tested dozens of different chairs before picking this one.  It’s about 10 years old now though, so this would probably be a good time for me to take another look to see if I can find an even better one.  I’ve heard really good things about the Aeron desk chairs.  On the other hand, it might be more fun to upgrade to a throne.  7. Add a portable fan. Even with good air conditioning, you might have periods where you just want to feel a little cooler, or maybe you’d like a bit of air circulation.  Use a small portable fan to keep your comfort level right where you want it to be. Today’s high in Las Vegas is 105 F, and later this week it’s supposed to hit 110.  Mid-summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees.  Even with the air conditioning on, it can still get a little warm in my home office during the summer.  A portable fan is a nice addition to my workspace.  The Vornado fans are really good.  They’re a little more expensive but well worth it – they run quiet and circulate the air nicely. 8. Add a fountain. If you find the sounds of running water soothing, consider adding a small fountain to your workspace.  You can get a basic one for under $20. Last year I added an illuminated rock garden fountain to the corner of my home office.  I plugged the power supply into the same power base I use for my PC equipment, so I can simply flip a switch in front of me to turn it on.  I probably run it about eight hours a day on average, and I add water about once every three days.  When I hear the fountain running low, I’m reminded to water my plants too. 9. Personalize your space. Does your workspace look like an automaton works there, or does it include elements that are uniquely you?  Remember that your workspace is your living space for much of your day, so make it livable and not just workable.  A good way to accomplish this is by adding items that hold emotional significance for you. Photographs are an easy way to personalize your space.  I have some typical family photos in my office and the requisite wedding picture, but there’s one particular photo from when my wife and I first met that was taken by my (now deceased) grandfather that’s very special to me.  I like being able to see it when I work.  It also reminds me that I’m not alone — my wife and I are sharing a wonderful path together, and I’ve seen plenty of signs that my grandfather is watching over us. 10. Establish uninterruptible periods. Negotiate a period of time each day where you turn off all outside communication, and encase yourself in a cocoon of concentration.  Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, turn off your phone, disable your instant messenger, and don’t check email either.  Use this time to work on the tasks that would cause you the greatest stress or which require your utmost concentration.  It’s easier to relax and focus when you know you won’t be interrupted. Some jobs obviously require more solo concentration time than others.  A computer programmer may need a lot, while a receptionist may need virtually none.  Determine how much you need to be productive, and do whatever is necessary to get it. When I really need to concentrate, I usually lock my office door.  My family sometimes objects to these communication blackouts, but with two kids at home on summer vacation now, I find it necessary to enforce some boundaries in order to get my work done.  I’m not particularly friendly or compassionate when I get interrupted while writing, so this is largely for their own safety.  Now go do it! Take a moment to survey your workspace and jot down a few changes you’d like to make.  How can you make your workspace even more relaxing, livable, and attractive?  If cash is tight, set a budget for how much you’d like to spend on relaxifying your workspace.  Maybe you can even get your employer to pay for some of it, especially if it’s likely to boost your productivity.  What if your employer rejects the changes you’d like to make?  Some changes are certainly negotiable because of their side effects.  Your coworkers may not appreciate the scent of jasmine wafting through their workspaces.  But if your employer is downright ogre-like and won’t permit you a plant or a family photo, well… I’d recommend getting a new employer.  Your work should support your preferred lifestyle, not squash it. Think about the most relaxing places you know of.  What is it about those places that makes you feel good?  What are the sights, sounds, and smells?  How can you modify your workspace to create a similar feel?  You might not be able to duplicate the feeling perfectly, but you can always get close.  If you don’t have time for a complete workspace makeover, then just make one little change each week.  Add a photo.  Buy a plant.  Clean up the junk pile.  Relaxify and enjoy.
    810 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Some people claim they work well in a high-stress environment.  I’m not one of them.  My productivity is highest when I’m fully relaxed.  With inspiring goals I still feel a positive urging to get my work done, but the pressure to work stems from passion instead of fear. Last year I made changes to my home office to better relaxify it (I know relaxify isn’t a word, but it should be).  I enjoy being in my workspace, and I can work productively for many hours without feeling like I’ve lost my humanity. When considering changes to your workspace, here’s rule #1:  If it feels right to you, it is right.  That rule is primary; my specific suggestions are secondary. With that in mind, here are 10 suggestions for creating a more relaxing workspace: 1. Make your workspace look attractive to you. When I walk through a typical corporate office building, I see the most dreadfully sterile workspaces.  It doesn’t look remotely human.  Do people get hired to work there… or assimilated? Must a professional workspace be a sterile sea of beige and gray?  Remember that where you work, you also live.  Given the amount of time you’ll be living in your workspace over the course of your lifetime, it makes sense to add some visual appeal. The first time you see your workspace each day, you should feel good about it.  It should be attractive to you.  Really it should be your favorite place in the entire building, house, or campus.  If you’re in your workspace right now, please step outside for a minute, and then re-enter it while paying close attention to your sense impressions.  What’s the very first emotional response you can detect?  Do you feel stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Bored?  Apathetic?  Focused?  Peaceful?  Is this an emotion you experience often while working? Now choose the emotion you want to feel, and experiment with different visual elements to see how they alter your feelings.  Try new furniture, photos, posters, mirrors, flowers, knick knacks, toys, statues, rugs, artwork, crystals, etc.  If you have the necessary control, you can also tweak the lighting in your workspace to create the right type of mood.  I know a programmer who works in a completely dark room with no windows, he loves it. 2. Clear out the clutter. One look at a cluttered workspace, and you get a sense that the person working there is stressed, overwhelmed, and disorganized.  Years ago I read about a study that concluded most managers will not promote a person with a messy workspace into a position of responsibility.  It’s assumed that if you can’t organize your physical environment, you’re probably incompetent to a certain degree and can’t be trusted.  And if layoffs happen, you can imagine who the most obvious targets are. But even more critical is the effect a cluttered workspace has on your focus.  It’s difficult to feel centered when you’re surrounded by unfinished tasks that constantly remind you of what you haven’t done yet.  Ideally the only paper items on your desk should be directly related to the current task at hand.  Store everything else in drawers, shelves, or cabinets.  Many people notice a dramatic improvement to their productivity when they try this. For how-to tips on organizing your workspace, be sure to read Getting Organized. 3. Add plants. Plants are a wonderful way to add life to a lifeless workspace.  Use only living, oxygen-generating plants, not lifeless fake ones.  Water them as needed to keep them healthy.  Over time you’ll find that your plants begin to resonate with you and become a reflection of you.  Dying plants = dead career.  Fake plants = appears successful but empty on the inside.  Healthy plants = healthy career.  Lots of plants = abundance.  Bring yourself back to nature by adding some plants to your workspace, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the environment much more. I currently have three plants in my office, and I’ll soon add more.  Two are lucky bamboo plants.  Are they really lucky?  Since I bought them last year, the income I receive from this site has increased by about a factor of 100, so who knows?  I added a small mirror behind them as well, which doubles their visual presence without taking up extra space.  Maybe that doubles my luck too.  4. Make it smell good. Australian dentist Paddy Lund has his staff bake fresh muffins for his patients daily.  Think about how a dentist’s office usually smells.  Now imagine walking into one that smells of blueberry muffins.  Along with other changes, this reportedly helped Lund increase his income by a factor of 10.  I’m not suggesting you add a Holly Hobby Easy Bake Oven to your workspace, but there are plenty of practical ways to make it smell better than cleaning supplies. A while back I read that certain scents have a measurable effect on productivity.  If I recall correctly, lemon and lavender produced the most significant positive results. Personally I love scented candles, especially the 3″x6″ pillars.  They not only make my office smell good, but the colorful candles and decorative candle holders add visual appeal as well.  My favorites aromas are vanilla and lemon.  I have almost a dozen scented candles in my office at any one time.  I find it worthwhile to pay for good quality candles.  I’m no candle expert, but I’ve noticed that the cheapest ones tend to burn unevenly, become terribly misshapen as they burn down, and don’t produce a very rich aroma. Occasionally I’ll burn some Tahitian vanilla incense, but I use that very sparingly and wouldn’t recommend it in a corporate environment because you’ll stink up the whole building.  I burn it right next to an open window, which dilutes the scent and keeps the room from becoming smoky. If you don’t like candles, there are other options for improving the smell of your office.  You can get a diffuser and fill it with essential oil, add some potpourri, or even try sliced lemons.  Be careful when considering chemical air fresheners though, as there are reports they can pose health risks. 5. Play relaxing music. Experiment with different types of music to see what effect they have on your stress level and productivity.  Use headphones if you need to keep from disturbing others. I prefer total silence when I do certain types of work, but for everyday tasks I like listening to music.  I use the free WinAmp player and listen to streaming music from Digitally Imported.  After listening to DI’s free streams for years, I finally bought a subscription ($60 for a year).  The subscription streams are higher quality, more reliable (no time-outs or disconnects so far), and commercial-free.  My favorite streams are Vocal Trance and New Age. 6. Get a decent chair. Most likely you’ll use your chair more than any other object in your workspace, so consider investing in a good one.  Today there’s an assortment of oddities you can sit on, including knee chairs, balls, and more.  Head to an office supply store and find something that suits you.  If your company won’t get you a decent chair, then consider buying your own. I don’t own a super-expensive chair (I think it was $200 originally), but it works for me.  It keeps my spine straight, and I can sit for hours without pain or discomfort.  I tested dozens of different chairs before picking this one.  It’s about 10 years old now though, so this would probably be a good time for me to take another look to see if I can find an even better one.  I’ve heard really good things about the Aeron desk chairs.  On the other hand, it might be more fun to upgrade to a throne.  7. Add a portable fan. Even with good air conditioning, you might have periods where you just want to feel a little cooler, or maybe you’d like a bit of air circulation.  Use a small portable fan to keep your comfort level right where you want it to be. Today’s high in Las Vegas is 105 F, and later this week it’s supposed to hit 110.  Mid-summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees.  Even with the air conditioning on, it can still get a little warm in my home office during the summer.  A portable fan is a nice addition to my workspace.  The Vornado fans are really good.  They’re a little more expensive but well worth it – they run quiet and circulate the air nicely. 8. Add a fountain. If you find the sounds of running water soothing, consider adding a small fountain to your workspace.  You can get a basic one for under $20. Last year I added an illuminated rock garden fountain to the corner of my home office.  I plugged the power supply into the same power base I use for my PC equipment, so I can simply flip a switch in front of me to turn it on.  I probably run it about eight hours a day on average, and I add water about once every three days.  When I hear the fountain running low, I’m reminded to water my plants too. 9. Personalize your space. Does your workspace look like an automaton works there, or does it include elements that are uniquely you?  Remember that your workspace is your living space for much of your day, so make it livable and not just workable.  A good way to accomplish this is by adding items that hold emotional significance for you. Photographs are an easy way to personalize your space.  I have some typical family photos in my office and the requisite wedding picture, but there’s one particular photo from when my wife and I first met that was taken by my (now deceased) grandfather that’s very special to me.  I like being able to see it when I work.  It also reminds me that I’m not alone — my wife and I are sharing a wonderful path together, and I’ve seen plenty of signs that my grandfather is watching over us. 10. Establish uninterruptible periods. Negotiate a period of time each day where you turn off all outside communication, and encase yourself in a cocoon of concentration.  Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, turn off your phone, disable your instant messenger, and don’t check email either.  Use this time to work on the tasks that would cause you the greatest stress or which require your utmost concentration.  It’s easier to relax and focus when you know you won’t be interrupted. Some jobs obviously require more solo concentration time than others.  A computer programmer may need a lot, while a receptionist may need virtually none.  Determine how much you need to be productive, and do whatever is necessary to get it. When I really need to concentrate, I usually lock my office door.  My family sometimes objects to these communication blackouts, but with two kids at home on summer vacation now, I find it necessary to enforce some boundaries in order to get my work done.  I’m not particularly friendly or compassionate when I get interrupted while writing, so this is largely for their own safety.  Now go do it! Take a moment to survey your workspace and jot down a few changes you’d like to make.  How can you make your workspace even more relaxing, livable, and attractive?  If cash is tight, set a budget for how much you’d like to spend on relaxifying your workspace.  Maybe you can even get your employer to pay for some of it, especially if it’s likely to boost your productivity.  What if your employer rejects the changes you’d like to make?  Some changes are certainly negotiable because of their side effects.  Your coworkers may not appreciate the scent of jasmine wafting through their workspaces.  But if your employer is downright ogre-like and won’t permit you a plant or a family photo, well… I’d recommend getting a new employer.  Your work should support your preferred lifestyle, not squash it. Think about the most relaxing places you know of.  What is it about those places that makes you feel good?  What are the sights, sounds, and smells?  How can you modify your workspace to create a similar feel?  You might not be able to duplicate the feeling perfectly, but you can always get close.  If you don’t have time for a complete workspace makeover, then just make one little change each week.  Add a photo.  Buy a plant.  Clean up the junk pile.  Relaxify and enjoy.
    Jul 12, 2011 810
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Let’s say you’ve set some goals for yourself, and now you want to map out a basic plan for how you’ll achieve them.  How do you do this? Obviously there are many ways to plan your action steps, but as a generalization it seems intelligent to aim for a plan that you estimate will consume the least time and resources.  All else being equal, if Plan A takes three months and Plan B takes six months, you’ll go with Plan A.  This is just common sense, right?  You essentially look for the shortest path from your current position to your goal. It’s OK if your estimates aren’t accurate — the point is simply that most of us would consider a shorter path to be more intelligent than a longer path.  This is particularly true in business.  A direct path to an objective is considered more intelligent than a circuitous route.  Time is money, and delays can be costly. The myth of the shortest path As intelligent as this logic may seem, I happen to disagree with it (go figure!).  While I think such an approach to optimization is fine for machines, it’s suboptimal for human beings. Why? The problem appears during implementation of the plan.  What do you actually experience during the action phase?  Do you implement your plan like a machine, completing task after task in order?  Or does something entirely different occur? Personally I’ve never met a human being who worked like this, and I’ve never seen a business do it either.  Plans often fall by the wayside during the implementation stage.  Some would say it’s because people are bad at implementation, but is that really true?  Or was the plan flawed from the beginning because it failed to accurately account for human nature? I’ve produced some beautiful step-by-step plans on paper.  But my implementation has usually been less than stellar.  I’ll get off to an OK start for a little while, maybe a day or two.  Then I stumble.  Sometimes I get distracted.  Other times I feel the actions are just too tedious, and I find subtle ways to procrastinate.  And other times I feel lazy and unmotivated to work on them.  Even though I really want the results, I usually reach a point where I just don’t want to complete the next action.  Sometimes I find a way to push through my resistance.  Other times I rework the plan or move onto something else that seems more interesting (often repeating the cycle once again). Have you ever experienced this pattern yourself? Planning vs. implementation At first I figured I just needed to keep working on my self-discipline.  That did help, but it only encouraged me to set bigger goals, so I still eventually ran into the same problems on a larger scale.  After failing to get the results I wanted, I considered that the problem might be upstream.  Maybe my implementation was poor because my plans were flawed to begin with. That wasn’t an easy conclusion for me because planning is supposed to be one of my key psychological strengths.  According to the Myers-Briggs test, I’m an ENTJ, aka the Field Marshall (a good tactical and strategic thinker).  And the test from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths (which I highly recommend) showed that my #1 strength is strategic thinking.  So the last thing I would have suspected was that my planning was flawed.  But I wasn’t getting results by pushing myself to become better at implementing, so I figured I had nothing to lose by honing my planning skills. I bought fancy project management software, studied various planning methods, and learned how to break everything down into intelligently prioritized actionable steps.  But to my chagrin this investment didn’t pay off the way I wanted.  My plans looked better than ever, but I was still no better at implementing them. Of course some people are better doers while some people are better thinkers, and I definitely enjoy creating plans more than implementing them myself, but I’m not presently surrounded by a team of willing doers, and there are some projects that can’t be delegated easily, particularly in the realm of personal development.  I’m certainly capable of taking massive action under the right conditions — I just needed a way to create those conditions more frequently. Planning for optimal enjoyment I put this problem aside for a while, and one day when I was journaling, a different approach came to me.  Instead of trying to plan the most efficient path to my goal, what would happen if I tried to plan the most enjoyable path? My initial reaction was, “Nah, that wouldn’t work.  It would consume too much time and too many resources.  The most enjoyable path would probably be terribly slow.”  But as I gave it more thought, I had to admit my current approach was taking way longer than I’d planned anyway, so maybe an approach that appeared longer would actually take less time than the seemingly optimal one.  Hmmm…. This “most enjoyable path” began to reveal some interesting possibilities.  If I planned a very lengthy and resource-intensive route to my goal, a tediously slow path wouldn’t likely be the most enjoyable one.  So I figured the most enjoyable path couldn’t be too suboptimal. I wondered what such a plan would look like in comparison to its supposedly more efficient cousin.  I thought about some of the changes I’d make to craft a thoroughly enjoyable plan: Select interesting projects.  Favor projects I enjoy implementing vs. only looking to the end result. Add variety.  Break up long stretches of repetitive work.  Work in different locations.  Take field trips. Improve balance.  Blend solo time with social time.  Balance physical work with mental work. Create a pleasing work environment.  Relaxify my workspace so I enjoy spending time there. Involve others.  Find a way to get friends involved.  Form a mastermind group.  Involve my wife. Solve problems creatively.  Favor creative off-the-wall methods when the obvious solution is too dull or tedious. Enjoy plenty of downtime.  Keep motivation high by avoiding overwork.  Take vacations.  Enjoy rewards for achieving mini-milestones. Avoid the unpleasant.  If a step can’t be done enjoyably, find a way to delegate, outsource, or eliminate it. Use intention-manifestation.  Focus intentions to gain assistance from the Law of Attraction. Design for flexibility.  Allow daily choice making where order of task completion isn’t critical. As I began to understand what an enjoyable plan would look like in comparison with an efficient one, I realized it was a very different way of working.  It’s congruent with the Emotional Guidance System concept from the book Ask and It Is Given because the idea is to remain in a state of joy throughout the entire project.  So you still have a specific goal in mind, but along the way your focus is on enjoying the journey rather than reaching the destination quickly.  Instead of planning the steps that will allow you to achieve your goal as efficiently as possible, you plan the route that you’ll enjoy the most. Technically I began working with this paradigm in 2004 when I retired from the computer gaming industry and started this personal development site.  That immediately enabled me to begin selecting projects I enjoyed more.  Although I liked running my games business, I enjoy this personal development business a great deal more.  After working so long with the efficiency-based model, it’s been a real challenge to let it go.  I am getting there though because I find that the enjoyment-based model produces better results for me, both in terms of enjoyment and efficiency.  At least for me, the most enjoyable path may well be the most optimal one. Consider testing this planning model to see what results you get with it.  You spend your entire life in the present moment, so it makes sense to ensure that in this very moment, you’re in a state of joy.  Clearly you won’t accomplish that by planning to spend your life completing tasks that you find tedious, painful, boring, or pointless.  The switch to an enjoyment-based paradigm can fill your daily reality with creativity, joy, and fulfillment.  Ultimately all those present moments add up to your entire life.  If you enjoy your present moments, you’ll enjoy your life as a whole.
    5233 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Let’s say you’ve set some goals for yourself, and now you want to map out a basic plan for how you’ll achieve them.  How do you do this? Obviously there are many ways to plan your action steps, but as a generalization it seems intelligent to aim for a plan that you estimate will consume the least time and resources.  All else being equal, if Plan A takes three months and Plan B takes six months, you’ll go with Plan A.  This is just common sense, right?  You essentially look for the shortest path from your current position to your goal. It’s OK if your estimates aren’t accurate — the point is simply that most of us would consider a shorter path to be more intelligent than a longer path.  This is particularly true in business.  A direct path to an objective is considered more intelligent than a circuitous route.  Time is money, and delays can be costly. The myth of the shortest path As intelligent as this logic may seem, I happen to disagree with it (go figure!).  While I think such an approach to optimization is fine for machines, it’s suboptimal for human beings. Why? The problem appears during implementation of the plan.  What do you actually experience during the action phase?  Do you implement your plan like a machine, completing task after task in order?  Or does something entirely different occur? Personally I’ve never met a human being who worked like this, and I’ve never seen a business do it either.  Plans often fall by the wayside during the implementation stage.  Some would say it’s because people are bad at implementation, but is that really true?  Or was the plan flawed from the beginning because it failed to accurately account for human nature? I’ve produced some beautiful step-by-step plans on paper.  But my implementation has usually been less than stellar.  I’ll get off to an OK start for a little while, maybe a day or two.  Then I stumble.  Sometimes I get distracted.  Other times I feel the actions are just too tedious, and I find subtle ways to procrastinate.  And other times I feel lazy and unmotivated to work on them.  Even though I really want the results, I usually reach a point where I just don’t want to complete the next action.  Sometimes I find a way to push through my resistance.  Other times I rework the plan or move onto something else that seems more interesting (often repeating the cycle once again). Have you ever experienced this pattern yourself? Planning vs. implementation At first I figured I just needed to keep working on my self-discipline.  That did help, but it only encouraged me to set bigger goals, so I still eventually ran into the same problems on a larger scale.  After failing to get the results I wanted, I considered that the problem might be upstream.  Maybe my implementation was poor because my plans were flawed to begin with. That wasn’t an easy conclusion for me because planning is supposed to be one of my key psychological strengths.  According to the Myers-Briggs test, I’m an ENTJ, aka the Field Marshall (a good tactical and strategic thinker).  And the test from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths (which I highly recommend) showed that my #1 strength is strategic thinking.  So the last thing I would have suspected was that my planning was flawed.  But I wasn’t getting results by pushing myself to become better at implementing, so I figured I had nothing to lose by honing my planning skills. I bought fancy project management software, studied various planning methods, and learned how to break everything down into intelligently prioritized actionable steps.  But to my chagrin this investment didn’t pay off the way I wanted.  My plans looked better than ever, but I was still no better at implementing them. Of course some people are better doers while some people are better thinkers, and I definitely enjoy creating plans more than implementing them myself, but I’m not presently surrounded by a team of willing doers, and there are some projects that can’t be delegated easily, particularly in the realm of personal development.  I’m certainly capable of taking massive action under the right conditions — I just needed a way to create those conditions more frequently. Planning for optimal enjoyment I put this problem aside for a while, and one day when I was journaling, a different approach came to me.  Instead of trying to plan the most efficient path to my goal, what would happen if I tried to plan the most enjoyable path? My initial reaction was, “Nah, that wouldn’t work.  It would consume too much time and too many resources.  The most enjoyable path would probably be terribly slow.”  But as I gave it more thought, I had to admit my current approach was taking way longer than I’d planned anyway, so maybe an approach that appeared longer would actually take less time than the seemingly optimal one.  Hmmm…. This “most enjoyable path” began to reveal some interesting possibilities.  If I planned a very lengthy and resource-intensive route to my goal, a tediously slow path wouldn’t likely be the most enjoyable one.  So I figured the most enjoyable path couldn’t be too suboptimal. I wondered what such a plan would look like in comparison to its supposedly more efficient cousin.  I thought about some of the changes I’d make to craft a thoroughly enjoyable plan: Select interesting projects.  Favor projects I enjoy implementing vs. only looking to the end result. Add variety.  Break up long stretches of repetitive work.  Work in different locations.  Take field trips. Improve balance.  Blend solo time with social time.  Balance physical work with mental work. Create a pleasing work environment.  Relaxify my workspace so I enjoy spending time there. Involve others.  Find a way to get friends involved.  Form a mastermind group.  Involve my wife. Solve problems creatively.  Favor creative off-the-wall methods when the obvious solution is too dull or tedious. Enjoy plenty of downtime.  Keep motivation high by avoiding overwork.  Take vacations.  Enjoy rewards for achieving mini-milestones. Avoid the unpleasant.  If a step can’t be done enjoyably, find a way to delegate, outsource, or eliminate it. Use intention-manifestation.  Focus intentions to gain assistance from the Law of Attraction. Design for flexibility.  Allow daily choice making where order of task completion isn’t critical. As I began to understand what an enjoyable plan would look like in comparison with an efficient one, I realized it was a very different way of working.  It’s congruent with the Emotional Guidance System concept from the book Ask and It Is Given because the idea is to remain in a state of joy throughout the entire project.  So you still have a specific goal in mind, but along the way your focus is on enjoying the journey rather than reaching the destination quickly.  Instead of planning the steps that will allow you to achieve your goal as efficiently as possible, you plan the route that you’ll enjoy the most. Technically I began working with this paradigm in 2004 when I retired from the computer gaming industry and started this personal development site.  That immediately enabled me to begin selecting projects I enjoyed more.  Although I liked running my games business, I enjoy this personal development business a great deal more.  After working so long with the efficiency-based model, it’s been a real challenge to let it go.  I am getting there though because I find that the enjoyment-based model produces better results for me, both in terms of enjoyment and efficiency.  At least for me, the most enjoyable path may well be the most optimal one. Consider testing this planning model to see what results you get with it.  You spend your entire life in the present moment, so it makes sense to ensure that in this very moment, you’re in a state of joy.  Clearly you won’t accomplish that by planning to spend your life completing tasks that you find tedious, painful, boring, or pointless.  The switch to an enjoyment-based paradigm can fill your daily reality with creativity, joy, and fulfillment.  Ultimately all those present moments add up to your entire life.  If you enjoy your present moments, you’ll enjoy your life as a whole.
    Jul 12, 2011 5233
  • 12 Jul 2011
    The first area of my life I’m struggling with involves money and financial issues.  I’m not sure how many of you will be able to relate to my particular challenges, but I’ll do my best to explain them.  I’ve read many books on money and finance, as I’m sure many of you have, but I haven’t seen this particular problem articulated in any of them. First of all, my problem has nothing to do with financial scarcity; it’s almost the opposite of that.  Here are some of the components of my current financial situation: Erin and I enjoy a solid six-figure annual income.  We live off about 40-50% of it and save the rest. We expect to more than double our income this year compared to 2005, and we had a six-figure income then too. We have multiple streams of income from around a dozen different sources, many of which are totally passive or semi-passive. Our income is largely decentralized, so even if we lost the single biggest stream, our cashflow would still be positive. We bought a new house last year and a new car this year. We own some decent online assets, such as this web site. We have no debt other than our home and car payments, and we’re paying it off faster than necessary. We both have good credit and pay our credit card bills in full each month. We’re intelligent, experienced entrepreneurs with many marketable skills. Neither of us has a job, so we can’t be fired or laid off. We don’t have to work particularly hard to maintain our income.  Even growing it is fairly straightforward. We have sufficient savings to last us quite a while even if all our income got turned off and we did nothing about it. We have abundant income-generating ideas that we haven’t yet begun to tap. Our LLC provides some liability protection, and we’re reasonably well insured. We live in Nevada, which has no state income tax (personal or business). We donate to charity each month. If you stripped us of all our assets and income and even our business contacts but left us with our knowledge and skills, I expect we could bounce back to this point in less than a year. And lots of other positive aspects… Although we’re not millionaires, we’ve at least built a solid financial foundation.  Depending on your own situation, our accomplishments may seem like a dream come true, a pathetic underachievement, or anywhere in between.  To us this was a significant financial milestone.  Throughout most of the 1990s, we struggled financially.  I remember times when we had to consider the financial consequences of buying a meal at Taco Bell.  While it didn’t seem very funny at the time, today I can only laugh about it. The irony of our current financial situation is that neither Erin nor I are money-oriented people.  We certainly didn’t achieve these financial goals by accident — there was a lot of deliberate intention, planning, and action behind them.  But the main reason we worked towards these goals was to get financial concerns out of our way, so that we could focus our attention on what really mattered to us. During the ’80s and ’90s, my favorite TV show was Star Trek: The Next Generation.  In Gene Roddenberry’s vision, money was made largely irrelevant because technology provided for everyone’s basic needs and then some.  But everyone still worked even though they didn’t really have to.  Instead of working to make money, they were all driven by the passion to do what they loved.  The Ferengi, a greedy profit-seeking race reminiscent of today’s capitalists, were depicted as a cosmic joke.  Although this was fiction, the idea of making money irrelevant really connected with me.  I asked myself, “Why not today?”  Why not find a way to take advantage of today’s technology to cover all my basic needs in a largely automated way, so then I could concentrate fully on doing what I loved? Instead of trying to get rich, my primary financial goal was to secure the freedom to do whatever I wanted without needing to worry about money.  That was a decision I made in my mid-20s, and it has guided my financial decisions ever since. Attempt #1 involved starting my own game development business, working on retail titles funded by publishers.  I’ll spare you the details, but that approach ultimately failed.  I learned the valuable lesson that putting my financial future in the hands of a third-party wasn’t going to work.  It was far too risky, as I often found out the hard way. Attempt #2 was to convert that same company to a direct sales model.  I developed and licensed shareware games and sold them over the Internet in a fairly automated way.  That approach actually worked, and the business became profitable and stable.  I could see that if I continued down that path, I could achieve a decent level of wealth, at least becoming a millionaire.  But I hit a snag because I began to dislike how I was making money.  The company’s mission to entertain people no longer inspired me.  The valuable lesson I learned here was that the method I used to generate income was at least as important as the income itself.  I needed a way to earn money that would be inspiring to me and which would truly serve the greater good. You’re looking at attempt #3 right now.  This web site is an outlet for doing what truly inspires me, but it’s also a financial vehicle.  This attempt puts both of my previous attempts to shame.  I love the work I’m doing, my motivation is sky-high, I’m enjoying financial abundance, and I have a level of freedom that’s a pretty good emulation of the what the Star Trek characters experienced.  It took me almost a decade, but I essentially achieved my goal.  I’d be pretty darn happy doing this for the rest of my life. By now you’re probably ready to scream at me, “So what the heck is the problem then?” Well…  I’ve been pursuing this financial goal for so many years that I never clearly understood what it would be like to actually achieve it.  This is where my Star Trek analogy totally falls apart.  In that universe the characters have all their needs met by technology.  There’s no scarcity, but there’s no excess either.  The replicators dole out one meal at a time and reclaim what you don’t eat.  But my current financial situation is like an overgenerous replicator.  It’s spitting out more than I need, and I anticipate that this positive gap is only going to get bigger. This paradigm served me well up to this point, but I can’t continue using it.  Here are some of the issues: What do I do with the excess cash that the business is throwing off?  Obviously I could invest it, but my current paradigm has no analogue for investments.  What’s the point of investing when you already have the freedom to pursue your heart’s desire? I could upgrade my lifestyle.  But I don’t like to shop, and it seems silly to run out and buy a bunch of stuff I don’t need.  I’ve got the cake, and I’m eating it too, so who needs extra frosting? I’m fashion-challenged, so it would be hard for me to spend the money on wardrobe upgrades.  Last month I bought my first new suit since 1994 (no joke). I barely pay attention to the material possessions I do have.  Suffice it to say that no one who visits our home would mistake Erin or myself for interior decorators. Somewhere along the way, I lost all my fear of going broke.  I know now that I could remain happy and purpose-driven even if I lost all my stuff, which definitely wasn’t the case when I first started on this path.  I don’t need more money to feel more secure.  I feel totally secure already. I get so much joy from my work that any bonus material incentives barely register.  Offering me a million dollars would be like offering a glass of water to the ocean.  I’m participating in the Million Dollar Experiment purely for fun.  I’m not even sure what to do with the money I’ve already manifested. The things I love most are essentially free. I don’t need any more money to do what I love because I’m already doing it. My subjective reality mindset renders money almost meaningless.  I view excess cash almost as if it were Monopoly money.  It doesn’t even seem real. Excess personal income means higher taxes.  My quarterly taxes are now more than I used to pay in a year. I currently have an LLC.  Would I be better off incorporating or electing C-corporation tax treatment for my LLC? What about forming a non-profit?  That does have some appeal to me. I’m not interested in empire-building as an end in itself.  But would building a larger enterprise allow me to do a better job of serving the greater good?  Or would it just add complexity and become a messy, freedom-killing distraction? Can I attract more like-minded people who’d be willing to work for an enterprise that cares more about genuine service than profits? I could donate the extra money to charity, but that seems rather strange when the nature of my own work is almost like a charity itself.  My LLC’s operating agreement specifically puts service to others as a higher goal than profit generation.  This would also seem to point me in the direction of forming a non-profit. I’m stuck in a situation where my unorthodox financial paradigm, my personal values, and my current financial realities are no longer congruent.  It’s ironic that their very success ultimately led me here. So that’s the problem in a nutshell.  What I need now is a new paradigm that restores alignment and empowers me as I move into the next phase of my financial life. I haven’t found any help in the books I’ve read because the authors’ values are too different from mine.  Some emphasize trying to make as much money as possible, as if it were an end in itself.  Others assume the goal is either financial security or financial freedom, but I feel I’m already there in a sustainable way.  I’m familiar with many different paradigms of wealth building, but none of them seem to mesh with the person I’ve become.  Most seem to be rooted in fear or greed.  What I really want is a financial paradigm that’s rooted in love. Building a larger enterprise does have some appeal to me, but it’s crucial that purposeful service to the greater good remain a higher priority than profit generation.  I’m unwilling to compromise on that, so that leans me in the direction of a non-profit rather than a typical C- or S-corporation.  My LLC doesn’t seem like the right long-term vehicle either.  However, I don’t think the real problem is at this level of thinking.  What I need first is a whole new paradigm of money. What’s the best way for me to think about money now that I’ve achieved my original goal?  What should I do with the excess cash each month?  Do I invest it?  Do I funnel the cash into expansion?  Do I pay off my mortgage?  Do I donate it to charity?  Do I form a non-profit?  Do I ignore the problem for now and just stockpile cash until I figure out what to do with it?  Do I try to increase my income even more?  If so, what sort of paradigm would motivate me to do that? Depending on your personal values, you might see this as a trivial problem, or you might recognize why this is such a challenge for me.  Either way, if you’d like to share your thoughts, I’m all ears.
    1031 Posted by UniqueThis
  • The first area of my life I’m struggling with involves money and financial issues.  I’m not sure how many of you will be able to relate to my particular challenges, but I’ll do my best to explain them.  I’ve read many books on money and finance, as I’m sure many of you have, but I haven’t seen this particular problem articulated in any of them. First of all, my problem has nothing to do with financial scarcity; it’s almost the opposite of that.  Here are some of the components of my current financial situation: Erin and I enjoy a solid six-figure annual income.  We live off about 40-50% of it and save the rest. We expect to more than double our income this year compared to 2005, and we had a six-figure income then too. We have multiple streams of income from around a dozen different sources, many of which are totally passive or semi-passive. Our income is largely decentralized, so even if we lost the single biggest stream, our cashflow would still be positive. We bought a new house last year and a new car this year. We own some decent online assets, such as this web site. We have no debt other than our home and car payments, and we’re paying it off faster than necessary. We both have good credit and pay our credit card bills in full each month. We’re intelligent, experienced entrepreneurs with many marketable skills. Neither of us has a job, so we can’t be fired or laid off. We don’t have to work particularly hard to maintain our income.  Even growing it is fairly straightforward. We have sufficient savings to last us quite a while even if all our income got turned off and we did nothing about it. We have abundant income-generating ideas that we haven’t yet begun to tap. Our LLC provides some liability protection, and we’re reasonably well insured. We live in Nevada, which has no state income tax (personal or business). We donate to charity each month. If you stripped us of all our assets and income and even our business contacts but left us with our knowledge and skills, I expect we could bounce back to this point in less than a year. And lots of other positive aspects… Although we’re not millionaires, we’ve at least built a solid financial foundation.  Depending on your own situation, our accomplishments may seem like a dream come true, a pathetic underachievement, or anywhere in between.  To us this was a significant financial milestone.  Throughout most of the 1990s, we struggled financially.  I remember times when we had to consider the financial consequences of buying a meal at Taco Bell.  While it didn’t seem very funny at the time, today I can only laugh about it. The irony of our current financial situation is that neither Erin nor I are money-oriented people.  We certainly didn’t achieve these financial goals by accident — there was a lot of deliberate intention, planning, and action behind them.  But the main reason we worked towards these goals was to get financial concerns out of our way, so that we could focus our attention on what really mattered to us. During the ’80s and ’90s, my favorite TV show was Star Trek: The Next Generation.  In Gene Roddenberry’s vision, money was made largely irrelevant because technology provided for everyone’s basic needs and then some.  But everyone still worked even though they didn’t really have to.  Instead of working to make money, they were all driven by the passion to do what they loved.  The Ferengi, a greedy profit-seeking race reminiscent of today’s capitalists, were depicted as a cosmic joke.  Although this was fiction, the idea of making money irrelevant really connected with me.  I asked myself, “Why not today?”  Why not find a way to take advantage of today’s technology to cover all my basic needs in a largely automated way, so then I could concentrate fully on doing what I loved? Instead of trying to get rich, my primary financial goal was to secure the freedom to do whatever I wanted without needing to worry about money.  That was a decision I made in my mid-20s, and it has guided my financial decisions ever since. Attempt #1 involved starting my own game development business, working on retail titles funded by publishers.  I’ll spare you the details, but that approach ultimately failed.  I learned the valuable lesson that putting my financial future in the hands of a third-party wasn’t going to work.  It was far too risky, as I often found out the hard way. Attempt #2 was to convert that same company to a direct sales model.  I developed and licensed shareware games and sold them over the Internet in a fairly automated way.  That approach actually worked, and the business became profitable and stable.  I could see that if I continued down that path, I could achieve a decent level of wealth, at least becoming a millionaire.  But I hit a snag because I began to dislike how I was making money.  The company’s mission to entertain people no longer inspired me.  The valuable lesson I learned here was that the method I used to generate income was at least as important as the income itself.  I needed a way to earn money that would be inspiring to me and which would truly serve the greater good. You’re looking at attempt #3 right now.  This web site is an outlet for doing what truly inspires me, but it’s also a financial vehicle.  This attempt puts both of my previous attempts to shame.  I love the work I’m doing, my motivation is sky-high, I’m enjoying financial abundance, and I have a level of freedom that’s a pretty good emulation of the what the Star Trek characters experienced.  It took me almost a decade, but I essentially achieved my goal.  I’d be pretty darn happy doing this for the rest of my life. By now you’re probably ready to scream at me, “So what the heck is the problem then?” Well…  I’ve been pursuing this financial goal for so many years that I never clearly understood what it would be like to actually achieve it.  This is where my Star Trek analogy totally falls apart.  In that universe the characters have all their needs met by technology.  There’s no scarcity, but there’s no excess either.  The replicators dole out one meal at a time and reclaim what you don’t eat.  But my current financial situation is like an overgenerous replicator.  It’s spitting out more than I need, and I anticipate that this positive gap is only going to get bigger. This paradigm served me well up to this point, but I can’t continue using it.  Here are some of the issues: What do I do with the excess cash that the business is throwing off?  Obviously I could invest it, but my current paradigm has no analogue for investments.  What’s the point of investing when you already have the freedom to pursue your heart’s desire? I could upgrade my lifestyle.  But I don’t like to shop, and it seems silly to run out and buy a bunch of stuff I don’t need.  I’ve got the cake, and I’m eating it too, so who needs extra frosting? I’m fashion-challenged, so it would be hard for me to spend the money on wardrobe upgrades.  Last month I bought my first new suit since 1994 (no joke). I barely pay attention to the material possessions I do have.  Suffice it to say that no one who visits our home would mistake Erin or myself for interior decorators. Somewhere along the way, I lost all my fear of going broke.  I know now that I could remain happy and purpose-driven even if I lost all my stuff, which definitely wasn’t the case when I first started on this path.  I don’t need more money to feel more secure.  I feel totally secure already. I get so much joy from my work that any bonus material incentives barely register.  Offering me a million dollars would be like offering a glass of water to the ocean.  I’m participating in the Million Dollar Experiment purely for fun.  I’m not even sure what to do with the money I’ve already manifested. The things I love most are essentially free. I don’t need any more money to do what I love because I’m already doing it. My subjective reality mindset renders money almost meaningless.  I view excess cash almost as if it were Monopoly money.  It doesn’t even seem real. Excess personal income means higher taxes.  My quarterly taxes are now more than I used to pay in a year. I currently have an LLC.  Would I be better off incorporating or electing C-corporation tax treatment for my LLC? What about forming a non-profit?  That does have some appeal to me. I’m not interested in empire-building as an end in itself.  But would building a larger enterprise allow me to do a better job of serving the greater good?  Or would it just add complexity and become a messy, freedom-killing distraction? Can I attract more like-minded people who’d be willing to work for an enterprise that cares more about genuine service than profits? I could donate the extra money to charity, but that seems rather strange when the nature of my own work is almost like a charity itself.  My LLC’s operating agreement specifically puts service to others as a higher goal than profit generation.  This would also seem to point me in the direction of forming a non-profit. I’m stuck in a situation where my unorthodox financial paradigm, my personal values, and my current financial realities are no longer congruent.  It’s ironic that their very success ultimately led me here. So that’s the problem in a nutshell.  What I need now is a new paradigm that restores alignment and empowers me as I move into the next phase of my financial life. I haven’t found any help in the books I’ve read because the authors’ values are too different from mine.  Some emphasize trying to make as much money as possible, as if it were an end in itself.  Others assume the goal is either financial security or financial freedom, but I feel I’m already there in a sustainable way.  I’m familiar with many different paradigms of wealth building, but none of them seem to mesh with the person I’ve become.  Most seem to be rooted in fear or greed.  What I really want is a financial paradigm that’s rooted in love. Building a larger enterprise does have some appeal to me, but it’s crucial that purposeful service to the greater good remain a higher priority than profit generation.  I’m unwilling to compromise on that, so that leans me in the direction of a non-profit rather than a typical C- or S-corporation.  My LLC doesn’t seem like the right long-term vehicle either.  However, I don’t think the real problem is at this level of thinking.  What I need first is a whole new paradigm of money. What’s the best way for me to think about money now that I’ve achieved my original goal?  What should I do with the excess cash each month?  Do I invest it?  Do I funnel the cash into expansion?  Do I pay off my mortgage?  Do I donate it to charity?  Do I form a non-profit?  Do I ignore the problem for now and just stockpile cash until I figure out what to do with it?  Do I try to increase my income even more?  If so, what sort of paradigm would motivate me to do that? Depending on your personal values, you might see this as a trivial problem, or you might recognize why this is such a challenge for me.  Either way, if you’d like to share your thoughts, I’m all ears.
    Jul 12, 2011 1031
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Thanks so much to everyone who privately responded to my financial abundance challenge in the previous post.  I received hundreds of ideas in less than 24 hours and more are coming in every hour.  I’m sorry I can’t reply to everyone to thank you personally (it’s enough of a challenge just to read it all), so I’ll say “thank you” here. I received numerous ideas for what to do with the money, including ”start your own radio or TV show,” “become an angel investor,” and “give it to me” (LOL).  Most people offered ideas for how to expand my work in various directions.  That wasn’t the main issue for me though because I already have specific long-range plans for that, which perhaps I’ll share later.  You should begin to see outward evidence of an expansion phase by the end of the year. The larger issue was that I needed a new paradigm of money to help me connect the dots.  Reading through all the feedback helped me view this situation from dozens of different angles in a compressed period of time.  There were lots of duplicate suggestions (especially ”pay off your debt first” and “have your material translated to other languages”), but as I compiled a master list along the way, I still ended up with more than 50 original ideas. I’ve always thought of my financial life as going through three stages.  First, you aim to achieve financial security.  Reach the state of meeting your most basic needs.  Secondly, you work to achieve financial comfort.  Increase your standard of living to a point that feels good.  And thirdly, work towards financial freedom (or independence or abundance).  Even though I’m not mega-rich, I’ve effectively reached the third stage already, but it left me hanging.  I didn’t know where to go next.  All the wealth-building books I’ve read so far stopped at stage three.  But is there a stage four? Yes, of course there’s a stage four.  Many people pointed out that even though I’m not mega-rich, my scenario is like a much smaller version of what Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are experiencing.  You’ve probably heard that Buffet recently pledged to give 85% of his money away, most of it to the Gates Foundation. I want to quote a line from one of the emails I received that really drove this home for me: Move from financial independence to financial IMPACT. That was the first breakthrough, but it wasn’t specific enough.  It was a good start, but it didn’t give me the full paradigm shift I needed. Although no one suggested it directly, I soon had another mental breakthrough.  I realized my original Star Trek paradigm of making money irrelevant in my life wasn’t actually broken at all.  On the contrary I just needed to expand it.  Once I realized that, everything fell into place for me.  I need to extend my successful microcosm of financial freedom beyond my own family and share it with others.  Imagine what could be accomplished by financially supporting dozens, hundreds, even thousands of other people who’ve devoted themselves to serving the highest good of all. This is an exciting paradigm for me because it’s congruent with many of the suggestions I received, and it fits my existing expansion plans like a glove.  Ultimately I want to devote the bulk of my financial resources to assemble a community of highly conscious, purpose-driven people (aka lightworkers), and make financial concerns irrelevant for them as well.  I’ll see to it that all their material needs are well-met, including food, clothing, and housing for them and their families.  They’ll be free to focus all their energy on serving humanity to the best of their abilities.  Writers can write, speakers can speak, teachers can teach, musicians can compose, counselors can counsel, researchers can research, inventors can invent, healers can heal, peacemakers can pacify, and so on.  And none of these people would need to worry about monetizing their work to support themselves unless doing so genuinely served the greater good.  Some members could also support the community by assisting with childcare, cooking, etc.  The members of this community would have a stable base of financial and social support to fearlessly fulfill their life purpose, the freedom to do what they came here to do.  This would not be an isolationist hippy commune.  It would be passionately engaged with the world at large. Such a community will only work if it’s populated by people who’ve reached a certain level of consciousness (at least the level of reason and ideally unconditional love or higher).  You wouldn’t have to be an enlightened master, but this just wouldn’t work with fearful or depressed people who are looking to escape the world.  If the awareness level of the members is too low, the whole thing would degrade into an unfocused mess (which is one of the reasons pure communism doesn’t work in the real world).  But with the right people, intelligently selected, it would be incredible. I often come across people who have their hearts in the right place, but they can barely support themselves.  They’ve already awakened to their true purpose, but due to a lack of business acumen and/or financial resources, they’re barely scratching the surface of their potential.  Nobody knows they even exist.  These are people who could be making an enormously positive contribution to the world, but the challenges of physical existence drag them down.  I know I can help these people in a big way. Find me someone with Mother Teresa’s compassion who’s been working at a meaningless job in order to pay her bills, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her fed, clothed, sheltered, and happily jobless until the day she dies.  Additionally, I’ll provide the delivery vehicle for sharing her message of compassion with the world. Obviously I’m presenting an idealized scenario here, since such a venture would require overcoming a myriad of real-world challenges.  But solving such problems is my specialty.  I’ve already done it for myself, and a perfect solution isn’t required anyway.  Even a halfway decent implementation will make a huge difference.  One small step would be to buy some additional housing and invite lightworkers to live there rent-free as long as they’re living their purpose. My mission has grown too big for me to continue going it alone.  Erin and I are working at close to full capacity, often putting in 12-hour days now.  We’re both loving the journey and in no way suffering from burnout, but we’re still just scratching the surface.  Reaching a million people a month is a good start, but we’re definitely not stopping here. I don’t have the resources to make this complete vision a reality yet (except in my imagination), but I have no doubt I’ll (we’ll) get there.  This new paradigm gives me a compelling reason to continue growing my income now.  The greater the income, the greater the size of the community we can support… and ultimately everyone benefits from that.  I already have the ideas and resources necessary to boost my income by at least a factor of 10, but until now I was missing the motivation to make it so.  I don’t have a strong reason to earn more income for myself because my needs are already met, but to be able to offer this level of freedom to others in a way that will ultimately benefit everyone… now that truly inspires me. Problem solved. As for the proper business and financial vehicle, I think a non-profit is the way to go, so I’ll begin researching what that would entail.  Interestingly enough, about six years ago I served for a year as President of the non-profit Association of Shareware Professionals (and for a year as Vice President before that).  So I actually have some experience in this area.  Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve been set up by the universe in the most unexpected ways? Thanks especially to everyone who told me they were holding the intention to help me find a solution to this problem.  It manifested in less than a day.  You rock!
    825 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Thanks so much to everyone who privately responded to my financial abundance challenge in the previous post.  I received hundreds of ideas in less than 24 hours and more are coming in every hour.  I’m sorry I can’t reply to everyone to thank you personally (it’s enough of a challenge just to read it all), so I’ll say “thank you” here. I received numerous ideas for what to do with the money, including ”start your own radio or TV show,” “become an angel investor,” and “give it to me” (LOL).  Most people offered ideas for how to expand my work in various directions.  That wasn’t the main issue for me though because I already have specific long-range plans for that, which perhaps I’ll share later.  You should begin to see outward evidence of an expansion phase by the end of the year. The larger issue was that I needed a new paradigm of money to help me connect the dots.  Reading through all the feedback helped me view this situation from dozens of different angles in a compressed period of time.  There were lots of duplicate suggestions (especially ”pay off your debt first” and “have your material translated to other languages”), but as I compiled a master list along the way, I still ended up with more than 50 original ideas. I’ve always thought of my financial life as going through three stages.  First, you aim to achieve financial security.  Reach the state of meeting your most basic needs.  Secondly, you work to achieve financial comfort.  Increase your standard of living to a point that feels good.  And thirdly, work towards financial freedom (or independence or abundance).  Even though I’m not mega-rich, I’ve effectively reached the third stage already, but it left me hanging.  I didn’t know where to go next.  All the wealth-building books I’ve read so far stopped at stage three.  But is there a stage four? Yes, of course there’s a stage four.  Many people pointed out that even though I’m not mega-rich, my scenario is like a much smaller version of what Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are experiencing.  You’ve probably heard that Buffet recently pledged to give 85% of his money away, most of it to the Gates Foundation. I want to quote a line from one of the emails I received that really drove this home for me: Move from financial independence to financial IMPACT. That was the first breakthrough, but it wasn’t specific enough.  It was a good start, but it didn’t give me the full paradigm shift I needed. Although no one suggested it directly, I soon had another mental breakthrough.  I realized my original Star Trek paradigm of making money irrelevant in my life wasn’t actually broken at all.  On the contrary I just needed to expand it.  Once I realized that, everything fell into place for me.  I need to extend my successful microcosm of financial freedom beyond my own family and share it with others.  Imagine what could be accomplished by financially supporting dozens, hundreds, even thousands of other people who’ve devoted themselves to serving the highest good of all. This is an exciting paradigm for me because it’s congruent with many of the suggestions I received, and it fits my existing expansion plans like a glove.  Ultimately I want to devote the bulk of my financial resources to assemble a community of highly conscious, purpose-driven people (aka lightworkers), and make financial concerns irrelevant for them as well.  I’ll see to it that all their material needs are well-met, including food, clothing, and housing for them and their families.  They’ll be free to focus all their energy on serving humanity to the best of their abilities.  Writers can write, speakers can speak, teachers can teach, musicians can compose, counselors can counsel, researchers can research, inventors can invent, healers can heal, peacemakers can pacify, and so on.  And none of these people would need to worry about monetizing their work to support themselves unless doing so genuinely served the greater good.  Some members could also support the community by assisting with childcare, cooking, etc.  The members of this community would have a stable base of financial and social support to fearlessly fulfill their life purpose, the freedom to do what they came here to do.  This would not be an isolationist hippy commune.  It would be passionately engaged with the world at large. Such a community will only work if it’s populated by people who’ve reached a certain level of consciousness (at least the level of reason and ideally unconditional love or higher).  You wouldn’t have to be an enlightened master, but this just wouldn’t work with fearful or depressed people who are looking to escape the world.  If the awareness level of the members is too low, the whole thing would degrade into an unfocused mess (which is one of the reasons pure communism doesn’t work in the real world).  But with the right people, intelligently selected, it would be incredible. I often come across people who have their hearts in the right place, but they can barely support themselves.  They’ve already awakened to their true purpose, but due to a lack of business acumen and/or financial resources, they’re barely scratching the surface of their potential.  Nobody knows they even exist.  These are people who could be making an enormously positive contribution to the world, but the challenges of physical existence drag them down.  I know I can help these people in a big way. Find me someone with Mother Teresa’s compassion who’s been working at a meaningless job in order to pay her bills, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her fed, clothed, sheltered, and happily jobless until the day she dies.  Additionally, I’ll provide the delivery vehicle for sharing her message of compassion with the world. Obviously I’m presenting an idealized scenario here, since such a venture would require overcoming a myriad of real-world challenges.  But solving such problems is my specialty.  I’ve already done it for myself, and a perfect solution isn’t required anyway.  Even a halfway decent implementation will make a huge difference.  One small step would be to buy some additional housing and invite lightworkers to live there rent-free as long as they’re living their purpose. My mission has grown too big for me to continue going it alone.  Erin and I are working at close to full capacity, often putting in 12-hour days now.  We’re both loving the journey and in no way suffering from burnout, but we’re still just scratching the surface.  Reaching a million people a month is a good start, but we’re definitely not stopping here. I don’t have the resources to make this complete vision a reality yet (except in my imagination), but I have no doubt I’ll (we’ll) get there.  This new paradigm gives me a compelling reason to continue growing my income now.  The greater the income, the greater the size of the community we can support… and ultimately everyone benefits from that.  I already have the ideas and resources necessary to boost my income by at least a factor of 10, but until now I was missing the motivation to make it so.  I don’t have a strong reason to earn more income for myself because my needs are already met, but to be able to offer this level of freedom to others in a way that will ultimately benefit everyone… now that truly inspires me. Problem solved. As for the proper business and financial vehicle, I think a non-profit is the way to go, so I’ll begin researching what that would entail.  Interestingly enough, about six years ago I served for a year as President of the non-profit Association of Shareware Professionals (and for a year as Vice President before that).  So I actually have some experience in this area.  Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve been set up by the universe in the most unexpected ways? Thanks especially to everyone who told me they were holding the intention to help me find a solution to this problem.  It manifested in less than a day.  You rock!
    Jul 12, 2011 825
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I received a number of blogging-related questions, so I figured I’d handle them all in a single post. What blogging software do you use? WordPress What do you use as your primary RSS feed reader? FeedDemon Did you use a template for your blog design, or is it custom? It’s custom.  I didn’t want to copy what everyone else was using. How much income do you earn from your blog? Currently about $9000 per month and continuing to rise. What do you think of Technorati? It’s an interesting service for bloggers, especially for tracking links to your blog and for determining your blog’s relative ranking (in terms of link count).  However, my personal experience is that it’s the most buggy online service I’ve ever used.  Consequently, I’m disinclined to trust its accuracy, including the famed top 100 list.  For example, the link count for my blog’s Technorati listing will usually go for more than a month without updating, so most of the time it’s way off because about 20 new incoming links to my blog are added every day.  Technorati support told me this is a known bug and the link count is supposed to update daily.  But it’s been like this since last year at least, even after repeated support emails to them.  I even emailed David Sifry about it.  If it’s been a known bug for that long, why the delay in fixing it?  There are many other sporadic bugs I’ve encountered on their site as well — this is just one example.  I’ve heard other bloggers complain about Technorati bugs too, sometimes swearing it off after getting no resolution.  But hey, you get what you pay for, right?  Overall I still think it’s a neat service, but I don’t rely on them for accurate information, especially with respect to blog rankings. What’s the best advice you can give to other bloggers? Think of blogging as a means of self-expression.  It’s a way to inject more of yourself into the world.  If you have something of value to offer, blogging is an efficient (and free) way to deliver that value.  Don’t think of blogging as a way to get something but rather as a way to contribute. Imagine yourself on a stage before an audience of a million people.  You have the mic for as long as you want.  What would you say?  Would you start spouting marketing gobbledegook?  Maybe if you want to get boo’ed off the stage.  Would you blab on about what you had for breakfast this morning?  Zzzzzzz.  Figure out what you’d say to that audience (for real), and you’ll know what to blog about.  Then go do it! How do you maintain focus when building your blog? Figure out the focus for your life, and blog about that.  What is so fascinating to you that you know with a high degree of certainty that it will still fascinate you 20 years from now? I could have started other blogs on a variety of topics that interest me like computer programming, health, or public speaking, but they aren’t deep enough passions that I’d still want to be involved 20 years from now.  After a year or two, I’d probably be bored with those topics. Don’t confuse your medium with your message.  Blogging is just a medium, one of many creative outlets available to you.  Root yourself to your message, not to any particular medium. If you don’t know what your message is, then figure that out first before you start blogging.  Or you can blog about the process of discovering your message. If you were to start another blog, what would be the topic? Probably just a subset of the same, in order to attract a tighter, more focused audience and build a different sort of community.  I think it would be especially fun to start a site about psychic development and build a community of people who were interested in building their psychic skills, but PsiPog.net has already done it. I also live vicariously through Erin’s blog. What was the #1 traffic-building tool you used to grow traffic? My honest answer is creating content that genuinely helps people.  Word of mouth was my #1 marketing vehicle.  Most of my traffic growth came from unsolicited links on other people’s sites.  They stumbled across my blog, liked what they read, and told others about it.  Now this happens every single day.  Every once in a while, I get a mention on a high-traffic site, but my traffic is very decentralized.  It’s really the summation of thousands of links on low-traffic blogs that adds up. I think a lot of it has to do with intention.  Writing a helpful article with the intention to build lots of traffic is not the same as writing a helpful article because you genuinely want to help people.  I’ve done both.  Invariably I get the best long-term results when I write without thinking about traffic-building.  If the content is good, the traffic will come.  Now I pretty much ignore the traffic-building potential of an article and simply focus on sharing helpful ideas and insights. If you had it to do all over again, what would you have done differently with your blog? I would have started at least a year earlier.
    850 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I received a number of blogging-related questions, so I figured I’d handle them all in a single post. What blogging software do you use? WordPress What do you use as your primary RSS feed reader? FeedDemon Did you use a template for your blog design, or is it custom? It’s custom.  I didn’t want to copy what everyone else was using. How much income do you earn from your blog? Currently about $9000 per month and continuing to rise. What do you think of Technorati? It’s an interesting service for bloggers, especially for tracking links to your blog and for determining your blog’s relative ranking (in terms of link count).  However, my personal experience is that it’s the most buggy online service I’ve ever used.  Consequently, I’m disinclined to trust its accuracy, including the famed top 100 list.  For example, the link count for my blog’s Technorati listing will usually go for more than a month without updating, so most of the time it’s way off because about 20 new incoming links to my blog are added every day.  Technorati support told me this is a known bug and the link count is supposed to update daily.  But it’s been like this since last year at least, even after repeated support emails to them.  I even emailed David Sifry about it.  If it’s been a known bug for that long, why the delay in fixing it?  There are many other sporadic bugs I’ve encountered on their site as well — this is just one example.  I’ve heard other bloggers complain about Technorati bugs too, sometimes swearing it off after getting no resolution.  But hey, you get what you pay for, right?  Overall I still think it’s a neat service, but I don’t rely on them for accurate information, especially with respect to blog rankings. What’s the best advice you can give to other bloggers? Think of blogging as a means of self-expression.  It’s a way to inject more of yourself into the world.  If you have something of value to offer, blogging is an efficient (and free) way to deliver that value.  Don’t think of blogging as a way to get something but rather as a way to contribute. Imagine yourself on a stage before an audience of a million people.  You have the mic for as long as you want.  What would you say?  Would you start spouting marketing gobbledegook?  Maybe if you want to get boo’ed off the stage.  Would you blab on about what you had for breakfast this morning?  Zzzzzzz.  Figure out what you’d say to that audience (for real), and you’ll know what to blog about.  Then go do it! How do you maintain focus when building your blog? Figure out the focus for your life, and blog about that.  What is so fascinating to you that you know with a high degree of certainty that it will still fascinate you 20 years from now? I could have started other blogs on a variety of topics that interest me like computer programming, health, or public speaking, but they aren’t deep enough passions that I’d still want to be involved 20 years from now.  After a year or two, I’d probably be bored with those topics. Don’t confuse your medium with your message.  Blogging is just a medium, one of many creative outlets available to you.  Root yourself to your message, not to any particular medium. If you don’t know what your message is, then figure that out first before you start blogging.  Or you can blog about the process of discovering your message. If you were to start another blog, what would be the topic? Probably just a subset of the same, in order to attract a tighter, more focused audience and build a different sort of community.  I think it would be especially fun to start a site about psychic development and build a community of people who were interested in building their psychic skills, but PsiPog.net has already done it. I also live vicariously through Erin’s blog. What was the #1 traffic-building tool you used to grow traffic? My honest answer is creating content that genuinely helps people.  Word of mouth was my #1 marketing vehicle.  Most of my traffic growth came from unsolicited links on other people’s sites.  They stumbled across my blog, liked what they read, and told others about it.  Now this happens every single day.  Every once in a while, I get a mention on a high-traffic site, but my traffic is very decentralized.  It’s really the summation of thousands of links on low-traffic blogs that adds up. I think a lot of it has to do with intention.  Writing a helpful article with the intention to build lots of traffic is not the same as writing a helpful article because you genuinely want to help people.  I’ve done both.  Invariably I get the best long-term results when I write without thinking about traffic-building.  If the content is good, the traffic will come.  Now I pretty much ignore the traffic-building potential of an article and simply focus on sharing helpful ideas and insights. If you had it to do all over again, what would you have done differently with your blog? I would have started at least a year earlier.
    Jul 12, 2011 850
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Today it seems like the rate of change in the world is increasing exponentially, with monumental developments in business, technology, and the social environment happening daily.  How can an individual continue to grow and develop in a world that is moving so quickly? My personal answer to this question was to center my life around growth.  Things are indeed changing very quickly, so I figured the best way to stay on top of it was to turn growth into my actual career.  Perhaps I cheated then. I take in lots of new information every day just in the field of personal development.  I read a book or two every week.  I read tons of articles.  I talk to people in the field.  I have plenty of “eyes” out there who email me anything that might be significant.  Authors and publishers send me their latest books to review.  But there’s still no way I can keep up with all of it.  New information is being created at a far faster rate than I can absorb it. I remember hearing a statistic that the amount of knowledge in any given field doubles every seven years.  So you have to double your knowledge every seven years just to stay even.  And this statistic was pre-Internet, so you can imagine what it must be like today. At first this may seem discouraging, but it’s actually a really good thing.  You just need to look at it from the right perspective.  You see… no one is able to keep up with this rate of change.  Everybody’s confused!  And in that sea of confusion, new opportunities are popping up like crazy.  When a company like Microsoft nearly misses the Internet revolution, you know something’s up.  This explosion of information opens enormous gaps, making it possible for someone who sees these gaps to jump in and get a nice big piece of the pie while everyone else is scratching their heads. Some examples:  A UK college student uses a simple idea and the most basic web technology to earn $1,000,000 in just a few months.  Another guy begins with One Red Paperclip and 14 trades later, he turns it into a house. One of these cool little gaps allowed me to build this web site into one of the most popular personal development sites online.  In less than two years and with no marketing budget, my traffic zoomed past that of the world’s top personal development authors, speakers, and coaches.  With all of his vast resources, shouldn’t Tony Robbins easily be able to draw more web traffic than me?  His web site, however, reveals a clear lack of understanding of the most basic search engine optimization (SEO) principles.  What’s with the flash intro?  As Tony might say, I’m not telling you this to impress you… but to impress upon you that there are some serious opportunities created by this mass confusion. OK, that’s business and technology, but what about social dynamics?  In much the same way, rapid change first creates confusion.  What do I make of all these people who email me to let me know how reading my articles has affected them?  In nearly all cases, we’ve never met in person or talked on the phone.  I know virtually nothing about them.  But they potentially know a lot about me because of my blogging activities.  Are they friends?  Acquaintances?  Fans?  Visitors?  Usually I fall back on the safe term “readers,” but that doesn’t convey the emotional connection that often develops between the blogger and blog readers.  And what about people who meet on message boards and develop strictly online relationships?  What do we call those? Social change creates social opportunity as well.  Blogging is a pretty amazing social outlet when you think about it.  Here I am typing this in my home office while listening to some relaxing music and sipping a cup of herbal tea.  But technically I’m sharing ideas with thousands of people in over 150 different countries.  As soon as I click “Publish,” all those people will be able to read what I wrote.  And it’s essentially free. This is an amazing opportunity, but it can also be downright confusing sometimes.  In about 20 minutes, I’ll be leaving to attend a local humor workshop put on by a fellow Toastmaster.  There will probably be about 40-60 people in attendance, and I should know most of them.  I’ll probably be greeted by friends when I enter, and I’ll chat with them face-to-face.  I expect there will be lots of laughs.  For me this is a very normal social situation.  It makes sense to me.  And yet by sitting here typing at my computer alone, I’m actually communicating with many, many more people than I’ll ever see tonight.  The difference is several orders of magnitude.  I gave a workshop to this same audience in January, and I remember thinking that the physical audience in front of me was only an infinitesimal fraction of my online audience.  Yet that physical audience seems so much more real to me.  My brain doesn’t know what to make of this. Consequently, my preference is to simply accept the confusion and the opportunity as two sides of the same whole.  They’re a package deal.  It’s your choice which side of the coin you want to focus on.  You can focus on the confusion side and become paranoid.  Or you can focus on the opportunity side and take action.  Really this is nothing more than the classic decision between focusing on what you can’t control vs. on what you can control.  The former disempowers you.  The latter empowers you.  Choose wisely.
    1086 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Today it seems like the rate of change in the world is increasing exponentially, with monumental developments in business, technology, and the social environment happening daily.  How can an individual continue to grow and develop in a world that is moving so quickly? My personal answer to this question was to center my life around growth.  Things are indeed changing very quickly, so I figured the best way to stay on top of it was to turn growth into my actual career.  Perhaps I cheated then. I take in lots of new information every day just in the field of personal development.  I read a book or two every week.  I read tons of articles.  I talk to people in the field.  I have plenty of “eyes” out there who email me anything that might be significant.  Authors and publishers send me their latest books to review.  But there’s still no way I can keep up with all of it.  New information is being created at a far faster rate than I can absorb it. I remember hearing a statistic that the amount of knowledge in any given field doubles every seven years.  So you have to double your knowledge every seven years just to stay even.  And this statistic was pre-Internet, so you can imagine what it must be like today. At first this may seem discouraging, but it’s actually a really good thing.  You just need to look at it from the right perspective.  You see… no one is able to keep up with this rate of change.  Everybody’s confused!  And in that sea of confusion, new opportunities are popping up like crazy.  When a company like Microsoft nearly misses the Internet revolution, you know something’s up.  This explosion of information opens enormous gaps, making it possible for someone who sees these gaps to jump in and get a nice big piece of the pie while everyone else is scratching their heads. Some examples:  A UK college student uses a simple idea and the most basic web technology to earn $1,000,000 in just a few months.  Another guy begins with One Red Paperclip and 14 trades later, he turns it into a house. One of these cool little gaps allowed me to build this web site into one of the most popular personal development sites online.  In less than two years and with no marketing budget, my traffic zoomed past that of the world’s top personal development authors, speakers, and coaches.  With all of his vast resources, shouldn’t Tony Robbins easily be able to draw more web traffic than me?  His web site, however, reveals a clear lack of understanding of the most basic search engine optimization (SEO) principles.  What’s with the flash intro?  As Tony might say, I’m not telling you this to impress you… but to impress upon you that there are some serious opportunities created by this mass confusion. OK, that’s business and technology, but what about social dynamics?  In much the same way, rapid change first creates confusion.  What do I make of all these people who email me to let me know how reading my articles has affected them?  In nearly all cases, we’ve never met in person or talked on the phone.  I know virtually nothing about them.  But they potentially know a lot about me because of my blogging activities.  Are they friends?  Acquaintances?  Fans?  Visitors?  Usually I fall back on the safe term “readers,” but that doesn’t convey the emotional connection that often develops between the blogger and blog readers.  And what about people who meet on message boards and develop strictly online relationships?  What do we call those? Social change creates social opportunity as well.  Blogging is a pretty amazing social outlet when you think about it.  Here I am typing this in my home office while listening to some relaxing music and sipping a cup of herbal tea.  But technically I’m sharing ideas with thousands of people in over 150 different countries.  As soon as I click “Publish,” all those people will be able to read what I wrote.  And it’s essentially free. This is an amazing opportunity, but it can also be downright confusing sometimes.  In about 20 minutes, I’ll be leaving to attend a local humor workshop put on by a fellow Toastmaster.  There will probably be about 40-60 people in attendance, and I should know most of them.  I’ll probably be greeted by friends when I enter, and I’ll chat with them face-to-face.  I expect there will be lots of laughs.  For me this is a very normal social situation.  It makes sense to me.  And yet by sitting here typing at my computer alone, I’m actually communicating with many, many more people than I’ll ever see tonight.  The difference is several orders of magnitude.  I gave a workshop to this same audience in January, and I remember thinking that the physical audience in front of me was only an infinitesimal fraction of my online audience.  Yet that physical audience seems so much more real to me.  My brain doesn’t know what to make of this. Consequently, my preference is to simply accept the confusion and the opportunity as two sides of the same whole.  They’re a package deal.  It’s your choice which side of the coin you want to focus on.  You can focus on the confusion side and become paranoid.  Or you can focus on the opportunity side and take action.  Really this is nothing more than the classic decision between focusing on what you can’t control vs. on what you can control.  The former disempowers you.  The latter empowers you.  Choose wisely.
    Jul 12, 2011 1086
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Just for fun I recently asked Erin, “Now that the kids are in summer school, don’t you think it’s about time you went out and got yourself a job?  I hate seeing you wallow in unemployment for so long.” She smiled and said, “Wow.  I have been unemployed a really long time.  That’s weird…  I like it!” Neither of us have had jobs since the ’90s (my only job was in 1992), so we’ve been self-employed for quite a while.  In our household it’s a running joke for one of us to say to the other, “Maybe you should get a job, derelict!” It’s like the scene in The Three Stooges where Moe tells Curly to get a job, and Curly backs away, saying, “No, please… not that!  Anything but that!” It’s funny that when people reach a certain age, such as after graduating college, they assume it’s time to go out and get a job.  But like many things the masses do, just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  In fact, if you’re reasonably intelligent, getting a job is one of the worst things you can do to support yourself.  There are far better ways to make a living than selling yourself into indentured servitude. Here are some reasons you should do everything in your power to avoid getting a job: 1. Income for dummies. Getting a job and trading your time for money may seem like a good idea.  There’s only one problem with it.  It’s stupid!  It’s the stupidest way you can possibly generate income!  This is truly income for dummies. Why is getting a job so dumb?  Because you only get paid when you’re working.  Don’t you see a problem with that, or have you been so thoroughly brainwashed into thinking it’s reasonable and intelligent to only earn income when you’re working?  Have you never considered that it might be better to be paid even when you’re not working?  Who taught you that you could only earn income while working?  Some other brainwashed employee perhaps? Don’t you think your life would be much easier if you got paid while you were eating, sleeping, and playing with the kids too?  Why not get paid 24/7?  Get paid whether you work or not.  Don’t your plants grow even when you aren’t tending to them?  Why not your bank account? Who cares how many hours you work?  Only a handful of people on this entire planet care how much time you spend at the office.  Most of us won’t even notice whether you work 6 hours a week or 60.  But if you have something of value to provide that matters to us, a number of us will be happy to pull out our wallets and pay you for it.  We don’t care about your time — we only care enough to pay for the value we receive.  Do you really care how long it took me to write this article?  Would you pay me twice as much if it took me 6 hours vs. only 3? Non-dummies often start out on the traditional income for dummies path.  So don’t feel bad if you’re just now realizing you’ve been suckered.  Non-dummies eventually realize that trading time for money is indeed extremely dumb and that there must be a better way.  And of course there is a better way.  The key is to de-couple your value from your time. Smart people build systems that generate income 24/7, especially passive income.  This can include starting a business, building a web site, becoming an investor, or generating royalty income from creative work.  The system delivers the ongoing value to people and generates income from it, and once it’s in motion, it runs continuously whether you tend to it or not.  From that moment on, the bulk of your time can be invested in increasing your income (by refining your system or spawning new ones) instead of merely maintaining your income. This web site is an example of such a system.  At the time of this writing, it generates about $9000 a month in income for me (update: $40,000 a month as of 10/31/06), and it isn’t my only income stream either.  I write each article just once (fixed time investment), and people can extract value from them year after year.  The web server delivers the value, and other systems (most of which I didn’t even build and don’t even understand) collect income and deposit it automatically into my bank account.  It’s not perfectly passive, but I love writing and would do it for free anyway.  But of course it cost me a lot of money to launch this business, right?  Um, yeah, $9 is an awful lot these days (to register the domain name).  Everything after that was profit. Sure it takes some upfront time and effort to design and implement your own income-generating systems.  But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel — feel free to use existing systems like ad networks and affiliate programs.  Once you get going, you won’t have to work so many hours to support yourself.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be out having dinner with your spouse, knowing that while you’re eating, you’re earning money?  If you want to keep working long hours because you enjoy it, go right ahead.  If you want to sit around doing nothing, feel free.  As long as your system continues delivering value to others, you’ll keep getting paid whether you’re working or not. Your local bookstore is filled with books containing workable systems others have already designed, tested, and debugged.  Nobody is born knowing how to start a business or generate investment income, but you can easily learn it.  How long it takes you to figure it out is irrelevant because the time is going to pass anyway.  You might as well emerge at some future point as the owner of income-generating systems as opposed to a lifelong wage slave.  This isn’t all or nothing.  If your system only generates a few hundred dollars a month, that’s a significant step in the right direction. 2. Limited experience. You might think it’s important to get a job to gain experience.  But that’s like saying you should play golf to get experience playing golf.  You gain experience from living, regardless of whether you have a job or not.  A job only gives you experience at that job, but you gain ”experience” doing just about anything, so that’s no real benefit at all.  Sit around doing nothing for a couple years, and you can call yourself an experienced meditator, philosopher, or politician. The problem with getting experience from a job is that you usually just repeat the same limited experience over and over.  You learn a lot in the beginning and then stagnate.  This forces you to miss other experiences that would be much more valuable.  And if your limited skill set ever becomes obsolete, then your experience won’t be worth squat.  In fact, ask yourself what the experience you’re gaining right now will be worth in 20-30 years.  Will your job even exist then? Consider this.  Which experience would you rather gain?  The knowledge of how to do a specific job really well — one that you can only monetize by trading your time for money – or the knowledge of how to enjoy financial abundance for the rest of your life without ever needing a job again?  Now I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the latter experience.  That seems a lot more useful in the real world, wouldn’t you say? 3. Lifelong domestication. Getting a job is like enrolling in a human domestication program.  You learn how to be a good pet. Look around you.  Really look.  What do you see?  Are these the surroundings of a free human being?  Or are you living in a cage for unconscious animals?  Have you fallen in love with the color beige? How’s your obedience training coming along?  Does your master reward your good behavior?  Do you get disciplined if you fail to obey your master’s commands? Is there any spark of free will left inside you?  Or has your conditioning made you a pet for life? Humans are not meant to be raised in cages.  You poor thing… 4. Too many mouths to feed. Employee income is the most heavily taxed there is.  In the USA you can expect that about half your salary will go to taxes.  The tax system is designed to disguise how much you’re really giving up because some of those taxes are paid by your employer, and some are deducted from your paycheck.  But you can bet that from your employer’s perspective, all of those taxes are considered part of your pay, as well as any other compensation you receive such as benefits.  Even the rent for the office space you consume is considered, so you must generate that much more value to cover it.  You might feel supported by your corporate environment, but keep in mind that you’re the one paying for it. Another chunk of your income goes to owners and investors.  That’s a lot of mouths to feed. It isn’t hard to understand why employees pay the most in taxes relative to their income.  After all, who has more control over the tax system?  Business owners and investors or employees? You only get paid a fraction of the real value you generate.  Your real salary may be more than triple what you’re paid, but most of that money you’ll never see.  It goes straight into other people’s pockets. What a generous person you are! 5. Way too risky. Many employees believe getting a job is the safest and most secure way to support themselves. Morons. Social conditioning is amazing.  It’s so good it can even make people believe the exact opposite of the truth. Does putting yourself in a position where someone else can turn off all your income just by saying two words (“You’re fired”) sound like a safe and secure situation to you?  Does having only one income stream honestly sound more secure than having 10? The idea that a job is the most secure way to generate income is just silly.  You can’t have security if you don’t have control, and employees have the least control of anyone.  If you’re an employee, then your real job title should be professional gambler. 6. Having an evil bovine master. When you run into an idiot in the entrepreneurial world, you can turn around and head the other way.  When you run into an idiot in the corporate world, you have to turn around and say, “Sorry, boss.” Did you know that the word boss comes from the Dutch word baas, which historically means master?  Another meaning of the word boss is “a cow or bovine.”  And in many video games, the boss is the evil dude that you have to kill at the end of a level. So if your boss is really your evil bovine master, then what does that make you?  Nothing but a turd in the herd. Who’s your daddy? 7. Begging for money. When you want to increase your income, do you have to sit up and beg your master for more money?  Does it feel good to be thrown some extra Scooby Snacks now and then? Or are you free to decide how much you get paid without needing anyone’s permission but your own? If you have a business and one customer says “no” to you, you simply say “next.” 8. An inbred social life. Many people treat their jobs as their primary social outlet.  They hang out with the same people working in the same field.  Such incestuous relations are social dead ends.  An exciting day includes deep conversations about the company’s switch from Sparkletts to Arrowhead, the delay of Microsoft’s latest operating system, and the unexpected delivery of more Bic pens.  Consider what it would be like to go outside and talk to strangers.  Ooooh… scary!  Better stay inside where it’s safe. If one of your co-slaves gets sold to another master, do you lose a friend?  If you work in a male-dominated field, does that mean you never get to talk to women above the rank of receptionist?  Why not decide for yourself whom to socialize with instead of letting your master decide for you?  Believe it or not, there are locations on this planet where free people congregate.  Just be wary of those jobless folk — they’re a crazy bunch! 9. Loss of freedom. It takes a lot of effort to tame a human being into an employee.  The first thing you have to do is break the human’s independent will.  A good way to do this is to give them a weighty policy manual filled with nonsensical rules and regulations.  This leads the new employee to become more obedient, fearing that s/he could be disciplined at any minute for something incomprehensible.  Thus, the employee will likely conclude it’s safest to simply obey the master’s commands without question.  Stir in some office politics for good measure, and we’ve got a freshly minted mind slave. As part of their obedience training, employees must be taught how to dress, talk, move, and so on.  We can’t very well have employees thinking for themselves, now can we?  That would ruin everything. God forbid you should put a plant on your desk when it’s against the company policy.  Oh no, it’s the end of the world!  Cindy has a plant on her desk!  Summon the enforcers!  Send Cindy back for another round of sterility training! Free human beings think such rules and regulations are silly of course.  The only policy they need is:  “Be smart.  Be nice.  Do what you love.  Have fun.” 10. Becoming a coward. Have you noticed that employed people have an almost endless capacity to whine about problems at their companies?  But they don’t really want solutions – they just want to vent and make excuses why it’s all someone else’s fault.  It’s as if getting a job somehow drains all the free will out of people and turns them into spineless cowards.  If you can’t call your boss a jerk now and then without fear of getting fired, you’re no longer free.  You’ve become your master’s property. When you work around cowards all day long, don’t you think it’s going to rub off on you?  Of course it will.  It’s only a matter of time before you sacrifice the noblest parts of your humanity on the altar of fear:  first courage… then honesty… then honor and integrity… and finally your independent will.  You sold your humanity for nothing but an illusion.  And now your greatest fear is discovering the truth of what you’ve become. I don’t care how badly you’ve been beaten down.  It is never too late to regain your courage.  Never! Still want a job? If you’re currently a well-conditioned, well-behaved employee, your most likely reaction to the above will be defensiveness.  It’s all part of the conditioning.  But consider that if the above didn’t have a grain of truth to it, you wouldn’t have an emotional reaction at all.  This is only a reminder of what you already know.  You can deny your cage all you want, but the cage is still there.  Perhaps this all happened so gradually that you never noticed it until now… like a lobster enjoying a nice warm bath. If any of this makes you mad, that’s a step in the right direction.  Anger is a higher level of consciousness than apathy, so it’s a lot better than being numb all the time.  Any emotion — even confusion — is better than apathy.  If you work through your feelings instead of repressing them, you’ll soon emerge on the doorstep of courage.  And when that happens, you’ll have the will to actually do something about your situation and start living like the powerful human being you were meant to be instead of the domesticated pet you’ve been trained to be. Happily jobless What’s the alternative to getting a job?  The alternative is to remain happily jobless for life and to generate income through other means.  Realize that you earn income by providing value — not time – so find a way to provide your best value to others, and charge a fair price for it.  One of the simplest and most accessible ways is to start your own business.  Whatever work you’d otherwise do via employment, find a way to provide that same value directly to those who will benefit most from it.  It takes a bit more time to get going, but your freedom is easily worth the initial investment of time and energy.  Then you can buy your own Scooby Snacks for a change. And of course everything you learn along the way, you can share with others to generate even more value.